, Volume 90, Issue 4, pp 591–596

15N natural abundance in plants of the Amazon River floodplain and potential atmospheric N2 fixation


  • L. A. Martinelli
    • School of OceanographyUniversity of Washington
  • R. L. Victoria
    • Departmento de Física e MeteorologiaEscola Superior de Agricultura “Luiz de Queiroz”
  • P. C. O. Trivelin
    • Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura
  • A. H. Devol
    • School of OceanographyUniversity of Washington
  • J. E. Richey
    • School of OceanographyUniversity of Washington
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF01875455

Cite this article as:
Martinelli, L.A., Victoria, R.L., Trivelin, P.C.O. et al. Oecologia (1992) 90: 591. doi:10.1007/BF01875455


The15N natural abundance values of various Amazon floodplain (várzea) plants was investigated. Samples of young leaf tissues were collected during three different periods of the river hydrography (low water, mid rising water and high water) and during one period in the Madeira River (high water). A large variation of15N abundance was observed, both among the different plant types and between the different flood stages. This variation probably, reflected, in part, the highly variable nature of the floodplain, sometimes dry and oxygenated and at other times inundated and anaerobic and, in part, changes in plant nitrogen metabolism. Comparison of the nitrogen isotopic composition of leguminous plants with that of non-leguminous plants showed that, on average, the15N abundance was lower in the legumes than non-legumes, suggesting active N-fixation. Also, the15N natural abundance in aquatic grasses of the generaPaspalum, was in general, lower than the15N abundance of aquatic grasses of the generaEchinochloa. As both of these grasses grow in the same general habitat, it appears thatPaspalum grasses may also be nitrogen fixers.

Key words

15NAtmospheric nitrogen fixationFloodplainAmazon river
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© Springer-Verlag 1992