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High rates of net primary production and turnover of floating grasses on the Amazon floodplain: implications for aquatic respiration and regional CO2 flux


Diana L. Engle, fax +1 805 893 8062, e-mail:


We investigated whether rates of net primary production (NPP) and biomass turnover of floating grasses in a central Amazon floodplain lake (Lake Calado) are consistent with published evidence that CO2 emissions from Amazon rivers and floodplains are largely supplied by carbon from C4 plants. Ground-based measurements of species composition, plant growth rates, plant densities, and areal biomass were combined with low altitude videography to estimate community NPP and compare expected versus observed biomass at monthly intervals during the aquatic growth phase (January–August). Principal species at the site were Oryza perennis (a C3 grass), Echinochloa polystachya, and Paspalum repens (both C4 grasses). Monthly mean daily NPP of the mixed species community varied from 50 to 96 g dry mass m−2 day−1, with a seasonal average (±1SD) of 64±12 g dry mass m−2 day−1. Mean daily NPP (±1SE) for P. repens and E. polystachya was 77±3 and 34±2 g dry mass m−2 day−1, respectively. Monthly loss rates of combined above- and below-water biomass ranged from 31% to 75%, and averaged 49%. Organic carbon losses from aquatic grasses ranged from 30 to 34 g C m−2 day−1 from February to August. A regional extrapolation indicated that respiration of this carbon potentially accounts for about half (46%) of annual CO2 emissions from surface waters in the central Amazon, or about 44% of gaseous carbon emissions, if methane flux is included.