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ISRN Oceanography
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 604045, 16 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.5402/2013/604045
Review Article

Lipids in Marine Ecosystems

Department of Ocean Sciences, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, Canada A1C 5S7

Received 10 January 2013; Accepted 2 February 2013

Academic Editors: M. Elskens and J. L. Zhou

Copyright © 2013 Christopher C. Parrish. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Lipids provide the densest form of energy in marine ecosystems. They are also a solvent and absorption carrier for organic contaminants and thus can be drivers of pollutant bioaccumulation. Among the lipids, certain essential fatty acids and sterols are considered to be important determinants of ecosystem health and stability. Fatty acids and sterols are also susceptible to oxidative damage leading to cytotoxicity and a decrease in membrane fluidity. The physical characteristics of biological membranes can be defended from the influence of changing temperature, pressure, or lipid peroxidation by altering the fatty acid and sterol composition of the lipid bilayer. Marine lipids are also a valuable tool to measure inputs, cycling, and loss of materials. Their heterogeneous nature makes them versatile biomarkers that are widely used in marine trophic studies, often with the help of multivariate statistics, to delineate carbon cycling and transfer of materials. Principal components analysis has a strong following as it permits data reduction and an objective interpretation of results, but several more sophisticated multivariate analyses which are more quantitative are emerging too. Integrating stable isotope and lipid data can facilitate the interpretation of both data sets and can provide a quantitative estimate of transfer across trophic levels.