Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

Ancient and methane-derived carbon subsidizes contemporary food webs.


While most global productivity is driven by modern photosynthesis, river ecosystems are supplied by locally fixed and imported carbon that spans a range of ages. Alluvial aquifers of gravel-bedded river floodplains present a conundrum: despite no possibility for photosynthesis in groundwater and extreme paucity of labile organic carbon, they support diverse and abundant large-bodied consumers (stoneflies, Insecta: Plecoptera). Here we show that up to a majority of the biomass carbon composition of these top consumers in four floodplain aquifers of Montana and Washington is methane-derived. The methane carbon ranges in age from modern to up to >50,000 years old and is mostly derived from biogenic sources, although a thermogenic contribution could not be excluded. We document one of the most expansive ecosystems to contain site-wide macroinvertebrate biomass comprised of methane-derived carbon and thereby advance contemporary understanding of basal resources supporting riverine productivity.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View