Flood pulse induced changes in isotopic niche and resource utilization of consumers in a Mexican floodplain system
Tropical coastal ecosystems of the southern Gulf of Mexico including marshes, mangroves and seagrasses of Centla Wetlands and Terminos Lagoon (Grijalva-Usumacinta delta) are known to host a high diversity of aquatic consumers. Nevertheless, the limited research focusing on the energy fluxes that sustain consumers has as yet neither considered the strong seasonality of these systems, nor the linkage of the trophic flow patterns with ecosystem functioning. The present work analyses and compares stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N) of consumers during the dry and rainy season at different wetland sites to determine their resource utilization. The sites compared comprise three fluvio-lagoons and a coastal mangrove creek that differ in vegetational characteristics, distance to the sea, and freshwater input. The results support the hypothesis that a larger isotopic niche breadth of consumers prevails during the rainy season, when resource availability is supposedly higher. This translates into an increase in resource use diversification by consumers and corroborates the flood pulse concept (FPC), which can be particularly applied to those habitats with high riverine influence in the study area (e.g., fluvio-lagoons). However, the FPC alone cannot be applied to understand the main factors influencing the fate and utilization of basal resources in areas interacting more actively with the sea, and therefore further extensions and/or complementary conceptual approaches considering marine systems highly interconnected with coastal floodplains should be considered.