The use of stable isotopes as ecological tracers in deep-sea ecosystems has a long history, dating back to the late 1970’s. Stable isotopes have been instrumental to many key-findings about ecosystem functioning, particularly in chemosynthesis-based habitats (hydrothermal vents, cold seeps). However, constraining sampling logistics commonly limit the scope, extent, and therefore insights drawn from isotope-based deep-sea studies. Overall, much is left to discover about factors globally influencing food web structure in deep-sea ecosystems. In this context, deep-sea ecologists have to ensure that no sample is left unexploited, and that all generated data are easily discoverable, available and reusable.

DeepIso is a collaborative effort to produce a global compilation of stable isotope ratios and elemental contents in organisms from deep-sea ecosystems. In doing so, it aims to provide the deep-sea community with an open data analysis tool that can be used in the context of future ecological research, and to help deep-sea researchers to use stable isotope markers at their full efficiency. You can access the database at https://doi.org/10.17882/76595.

As of v1 (2020/10/22), DeepIso contains 15 distinct datasets, for a total of 18677 fully documented measurements. Archived parameters currently include δ13C (n = 4587), δ15N (n = 4388), δ34S (n = 951), %C (n = 2740), %N (n = 2741), %S (n = 752) and C/N ratio (n = 2518). Those measurements pertain to 4378 distinct samples belonging to 493 taxa, plus sediments, suspended particulate organic matter, plankton and detritus. Samples were taken between 1989 and 2018 in multiple environments (hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, cold water coral reefs, and other benthic or pelagic environments) and at depths ranging up to 5209 meters.

Example of targeted taxa: tubeworms Escarpia southwardae and mussels Bathymodiolus aff. boomerang from cold seeps. Picture: Ifremer, WACS cruise, 2011 (depth: 3160 m).

How can you contribute?

We sincerely hope that v1 is just a beginning, and that DeepIso will continue to grow over the years. To maximise the scope of the project, we are always looking to integrate more data, either underlying published articles, from grey literature, or even unpublished. We’ll be happy to assist in data formatting and publication. If you are willing to contribute, or simply if you have any feedback about the database, please get in touch!

Involved people, data contributors & funding

The working group currently includes Loïc N. Michel (Ifremer, FR), James B. Bell (CEFAS, UK), Stanislas F. Dubois (Ifremer, FR), Gilles Lepoint (University of Liège, BE), Karine Olu (Ifremer, FR), William D. K. Reid (Newcastle University, UK), Jozée Sarrazin (Ifremer, FR), Gauthier Schaal (University of Western Brittany, FR), and Brian Hayden (University of New Brunswick, CA).

We are thankful to many people that contributed data and/or helped formatting them: Antoine Carlier, Amanda W. J. Demopoulos, Mathilde Le Pans, Julien Marticorena, Jennifer P. McClain-Counts, Pierre Methou, Camilla Parzanini, Florence Pradillon, Eleonora Puccinelli, Philip M. Riekenberg, Loïc Van Audenhaege, Cindy Lee Van Dover, Dick Van Oevelen, and Clare Woulds.

This work is supported by the “Laboratoire d’excellence” LabexMER (ANR-10-LABX-19) and co-funded by a grant from the French government under the program “Investissements d’avenir”.