Global Biogeochemical Cycles

Seasonal variability in concentration, composition, age, and fluxes of particulate organic carbon exchanged between the floodplain and Amazon River

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Abstract

[1] The composition, sources, and age of particulate organic matter were determined in an Amazonian river-floodplain system during rising, high, falling, and low water periods over 7 yr (1999–2006), and a mass balance for total organic carbon (dissolved and particulate) was estimated. The Curuai floodplain, composed of several temporally interconnected lakes, is permanently connected to the Amazon River via channels. Organic matter (OM) is imported to the floodplain from the Amazon River mainly during the rising water period and produced in the floodplain and exported to the river during high and falling water periods. No significant exchanges occurred during low water periods. The OM produced in the floodplain is characterized by low C/N ratios and by high chlorophyll a concentrations (Chl-a). The δ13C signature has a seasonal trend, with more negative δ13C values during the high water period than other periods. Δ14C results indicate that the bulk OM present in floodplain lakes is predominantly post-bomb (i.e., post-1950). Particulate organic carbon (POC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) fluxes exported by the Curuai floodplain represent 1.3% and 0.1%, respectively, of the POC and DOC annual fluxes in the mainstem Amazon River at Óbidos but may reach up to 3.3% and 0.8% during falling water. Based on Δ14C, δ13C, Chl-a, and elemental analysis of the particulate organic matter, we demonstrate that floodplain lakes have intense phytoplankton and macrophyte primary production, which is partly exported to the main river channel. Floodplains are thus a significant source of modern and labile organic carbon to the river mainstem, where it can be rapidly degraded and recycled back to the atmosphere.

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