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The fate of organic matter in a papyrus (Cyperus papyrus L.) dominated tropical wetland ecosystem in Nyanza Gulf (Lake Victoria, Kenya)inferred from delta C-13 and delta N-15 analysis
Gichuki, J.W.; Triest, L.; Dehairs, F. (2005). The fate of organic matter in a papyrus (Cyperus papyrus L.) dominated tropical wetland ecosystem in Nyanza Gulf (Lake Victoria, Kenya)inferred from delta C-13 and delta N-15 analysis. Isot. Environ. Healt. S. 41(4): 379-390. dx.doi.org/10.1080/10256010500384739
In: Isotopes in Environmental and Health Studies. Taylor & Francis: Basel. ISSN 1025-6016, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Gichuki, J.W.
  • Triest, L.
  • Dehairs, F.

Abstract
    Papyrus swamps usually form at the interface between river inlet and open lake. From one such wetland ecosystem (the Kibos system located in the Nyanza Gulf, Lake Victoria, Kenya), three sediment cores were recovered using piston corer in order to determine the fate of organic matter derived from papyrus and possible nutrient pathways in this system. The coring represented a transect from the river through the floating papyrus mat to the lake. Two short cores were retrieved from the lake and river. One long core (2 m) was recovered on a floating papyrus mat. The C:N ratio showed similar trends down core from the three locations. This may possibly be due to diagenic processes such as autolysis, dissolution and microbial mineralisation occurring in the sediments. Statistical analysis through one-way ANOVA revealed no significant differences in the C:N ratios between stations. Results of the stable carbon isotope ratios revealed that the delta(13)C of the river and lake samples were persistently more negative than-20 parts per thousand over the whole profile indicating possible contribution from terrestrial derived carbon. Regarding the floating mat core, the delta(13)C values ranged from-18.99 parts per thousand on the top of the floating mat but gradually increased to-16.82 parts per thousand towards the bottom of the core indicating possible contribution of carbon from Cyperus papyrus that has a delta(13)C value of-13.450.62 parts per thousand. Statistical analysis through one-way ANOVA revealed significant differences in the delta(13)C values between stations. The stable nitrogen isotope values were highly positive both in the river and in the lake station (delta(15) N>10 parts per thousand), indicating possible contamination from sewage wastes. Values in the swamp were less positive suggesting first, the formation of ammonium depleted in N-15 from intense organic matter mineralisation, secondly indicating the delta(15)N signal of papyrus and, finally that nitrogen fixation processes were possibly occurring in the swamp. Statistical analysis through one-way ANOVA revealed significant differences in the delta(15)N values between stations. The stable isotope findings suggested that carbon derived from papyrus is retained in the swamp. Impoverished oxygen concentration in the swamp suggests high mineralisation of organic matter in the swamp indicating that the retained papyrus-derived carbon is largely respired. We conclude that further studies should be undertaken to determine the respiration rates in the wetland.

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