Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 189–200 | Cite as

Stable isotope analysis of aquatic invertebrate communities in irrigated rice fields cultivated under different management regimes

  • A. L. WilsonEmail author
  • D.S. Ryder
  • R.J. Watts
  • M.M. Stevens


In this study we have used stable isotope analysis to identify major food resources driving food webs in commercial rice agroecosystems and to examine the effects of agricultural management practices on the trophic structure of these food webs. Potential carbon sources and aquatic macroinvertebrate consumers were collected from large-scale rice farms in south-eastern Australia cultivated under three different crop management regimes conventional-aerial (agrochemicals applied, aerially sown), conventional-sod (agrochemicals applied, directly sown) and organic-sod (agrochemical-free, directly sown). Evidence from stable isotope analysis demonstrated the importance of food sources, such as biofilm and detritus, as the principal energy sources driving aquatic food webs in rice agroecosystems. Despite the greater diversity of potential food sources collected from the organic-sod regime across all sampling occasions, the range of food resources directly assimilated by macroinvertebrate consumers did not differ substantially across management regimes. Trophic complexity of aquatic food webs, as evidenced by the number of trophic levels identified using δ15N data, differed across management regimes at the early season sampling. Sites with low or no agrochemical applications contained more than two trophic levels, but at the site with the highest pesticide application no primary or secondary consumers were found. Our data demonstrates that the choice of agricultural management regime has a season-long influence on aquatic food webs in rice crops, and highlights the importance of conserving non-rice food resources that drive these trophic networks.


Agroecosystem Food web Organic agriculture Trophic structure 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Boon, P.I., Bunn, S.E. 1994Variations in the stable isotope composition of aquatic plants and their implications for food web analysisAquat. Bot4899108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bunn, S.E., Boon, P.I. 1993What sources of organic carbon drive food webs in billabongs? A study based on stable isotope analysisOecologia968594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bunn, S.E., Davies, P.M., Kellaway, D.M. 1997Contributions of sugar cane and invasive pasture grass to the aquatic food web of a tropical lowland streamMar. Freshw. Res48173179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burns, A., Ryder, D.S. 2001Potential of biofilms as biological indicators in Australian riverine systemsEcol. Manage. Restor25363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burns, A., Walker, K.F. 2000Biofilms as food for decapods (AtyidaePalaemonidae) in the River Murray, South AustraliaHydrobiologia4378390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohen, J.E., Schoenly, K., Heong, K.L., Justo, H., Arida, G., Barrion, A.T., Litsinger, J.A. 1994A food web approach to evaluating the effect of insecticide spraying on insect pest population dynamics in a Philippine irrigated rice ecosystemJ. Appl. Ecol31747763Google Scholar
  7. Elphick, C.S. 2000Functional equivalency between rice fields and seminatural wetland habitatsConserv. Biol14181191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. France, R.L. 1995Stable isotopic survey of the role of macrophytes in the carbon flow of aquatic foodwebsVegetatio1246772CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. France, R.L. 1996Absence or masking of metabolic fractionations of 13C in a freshwater benthic food webFreshw. Biol3616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. France, R.L., Peters, R.H. 1997Ecosystem differences in the trophic enrichment of δ13C in aquatic food websCan. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci5412551258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fry, B., Sherr, E.B. 1989δ13C measurements as indicators of carbon flow in marine and freshwater ecosystemsRundel, P.W.Ehleringer, J.R.Nagy, K.A. eds. Stable Isotopes in Ecological ResearchSpringer-VerlagBerlinGoogle Scholar
  12. Hamilton, S.K., Lewis, W.M., Sippel, S.J. 1992Energy sources for aquatic animals in the Orinoco River floodplain: evidence from stable isotopesOecologia89324330Google Scholar
  13. Lancaster, J., Waldron, S. 2001Stable isotope values of lotic invertebrates: sources of variation, experimental design, and statistical interpretationLimnol. Oceanogr46723730Google Scholar
  14. McCaffery, D., Taylor, M., Clampett, W., Lattimore, M. 2000Weed management Part 1: Management practices for weed controlKealy, L.Clampett, W. eds. Production of Quality Rice in South Eastern AustraliaRural Industries Research & Development CorporationBarton ACTGoogle Scholar
  15. O’Malley, R.E. 1999Agricultural wetland management for conservation goalsBatzer, D.Rader, R.Wissinger, S. eds. Invertebrates in Freshwater Wetlands of North AmericaWileyNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Peterson, B.J. 1999Stable isotopes as tracers of organic matter input and transfer in benthic food webs: a reviewActa Oecol20479487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Peterson, B.J., Fry, B. 1987Stable isotopes in ecosystem studiesAnnu. Rev. Ecol. Syst18293320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Power, M.E. 2001Field biology, food web models, and management: challenges of context and scaleOikos94118129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Richardson, A.J., Taylor, I.R. 2003Are rice fields in southeastern Australia an adequate substitute for natural wetlands as foraging areas for Egrets?Waterbirds26353363Google Scholar
  20. Roger, P.A. 1996Biology and Management of the Floodwater Ecosystem in Rice FieldsInternational Rice Research InstituteLos Banos, PhilippinesGoogle Scholar
  21. Russell-Hunter, W.D. 1970Aquatic Productivity: An Introduction to Some Basic Aspects of Biological Oceanography and LimnologyMacmillanLondonGoogle Scholar
  22. Schoenly, K.G., Cohen, J.E., Heong, K.L., Arida, G.S., Barrion, A.T., Litsinger, J.A. 1996Quantifying the impact of insecticides on food web structure of rice-arthropod populations in a Philippine farmer’s irrigated field: a case studyPolis, G.A.Winemiller, K. eds. Food Webs: Integration of Patterns and DynamicsChapman & HallNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Settle, W.H., Ariawan, H., Astuti, E.T., Cahyana, W. 1996Managing tropical rice pests through conservation of generalist enemies and alternative preyEcology7719751988Google Scholar
  24. Sheldon, F., Walker, K.F. 1997Changes in biofilms induced by flow regulation could explain extinctions of aquatic snails in the lower River Murray, AustraliaHydrobiologia34797108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sierszen, M.E., McDonald, M.E., Jensen, D.A. 2003Benthos as the basis for arctic lake food websAquat. Ecol37437445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Simpson, I.C., Roger, P.A. 1995The impact of pesticides on non-target aquatic invertebrates in wetland rice fields: a reviewPingali, P.L.Roger, P.A eds. Impact of Pesticides on Farmer Health and the Rice EnvironmentInternational Rice Research InstituteNorwell United StatesGoogle Scholar
  27. Steinmann, A.D. 1996Effects of grazers on freshwater benthic algaeStevenson, R.J.Bothwell, M.L.Lowe, R.L. eds. Algal EcologyAcademic PressSan DiegoGoogle Scholar
  28. Stevens, M.M., Helliwell, S., Warren, G.N. 1998Fipronil seed treatments for the control of chironomid larvae (Diptera: Chironomidae) in aerially-sown rice cropsField Crops Res57195207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vander Zanden, M.J., Rasmussen, J.B. 1999Primary consumer δ13 C and δ15N and the trophic position of aquatic consumersEcology8013951404Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. L. Wilson
    • 1
    Email author
  • D.S. Ryder
    • 1
  • R.J. Watts
    • 1
  • M.M. Stevens
    • 2
  1. 1.Johnstone CentreCharles Sturt UniversityWagga WaggaAustralia
  2. 2.NSW Agriculture and Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Rice ProductionYanco Agricultural InstituteYancoAustralia

Personalised recommendations