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Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures of decomposing tropical macrophytes
Fellerhoff, C.; Voss, M.; Wantzen, K.M. (2003). Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures of decomposing tropical macrophytes. Aquat. Ecol. 37(4): 361-375
In: Aquatic Ecology. Springer: Dordrecht; London; Boston. ISSN 1386-2588, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Carbon isotope ratio; Degeneration; Detritus; Flooding; Mesocosms; Nitrogen isotopes; Particulate organic matter; Trophic levels; Wetlands; Brazil, Mato Grosso, Pocone Pantanal; Fresh water

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  • Fellerhoff, C.
  • Voss, M.
  • Wantzen, K.M.

    The Pantanal of Mato Grosso, Brazil, is a large, seasonal wetland, which exhibits high macrophyte productivity at the beginning of the rainy season, when the floodplain becomes flooded. During inundation, from December through May, there is rapid turnover of decomposing macrophyte litter, which is subsequently colonized and consumed by various organisms. In this paper, the variation in the carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures of decomposing macrophytes and detritus was determined to provide an isotopic baseline for the elucidation of higher trophic levels. Seven abundant macrophyte species, Cyperaceae sp., Pontederia lanceolata, Cabomba furcata, Salvinia auriculata, Eichhornia crassipes, Nymphaea amazonum and Paspalum repens, were exposed in mesocosm decomposition experiments lasting 21 or 100 days. Stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen and the atomic C/N ratios were determined for decomposing plant material, particulate organic matter (POM), the microbial film, and aquatic invertebrate larvae. The δ13C values for the macrophytes did not change during decomposition. However, the variability of δ15N was high (range of ± 6 ‰) due to microbial activity. There was no consistent difference in the isotopic signatures of macrophytes and POM. C/N ratios decreased from 17 to 50 in macrophytes, to 7 to 12 in POM. The isotopic signatures and C/N ratios of the microbial film were the same as those of POM. We concluded that heterotrophic processes did not fractionate stable carbon isotopes but caused an increase in the variability of stable nitrogen ratios and a change in the C/N ratios in our experimental system. Therefore, it was not possible to distinguish fresh and senescent material or even POM when used as a food source. The δ13C values of the aquatic larvae were closely coupled to those of the carbon source provided.

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