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Gross primary productivity of phytoplankton and planktonic respiration in inland floodplain wetlands of southeast Australia: habitat-dependent patterns and regulating processes


Gross primary productivity (GPP) of phytoplankton and planktonic respiration (PR) (i.e., planktonic metabolism) are critical pathways for carbon transformation in many aquatic ecosystems. In inland floodplain wetlands with variable inundation regimes, quantitative measurements of GPP and PR are rare and their relationships with wetland environmental conditions are largely unknown. We measured PR and the GPP of phytoplankton using light and dark biological oxygen demand bottles in open waters of channel and non-channel floodplain habitats of inland floodplain wetlands of southeast Australia that had been inundated by environmental water. Overall, GPP varied from 3.7 to 405.5 mg C m−3 h−1 (mean ± standard error: 89.4 ± 9.2 mg C m−3 h−1, n = 81), PR from 1.5 to 251.6 mg C m−3 h−1 (43.2 ± 5.6 mg C m−3 h−1, n = 81), and GPP/PR from 0.2 to 15.6 (3.0 ± 0.3, n = 81). In terms of wetland environmental conditions, total nitrogen (TN) ranged from 682.0 to 14,700.0 mg m−3 (mean ± standard error: 2,643.0 ± 241.6 mg m−3, n = 81), total phosphorus (TP) from 48.0 to 1,405.0 mg m−3 (316.8 ± 31.4 mg m−3, n = 81), and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from 1.9 to 46.3 g m−3 (22.0 ± 1.6 g m−3, n = 81). Using ordinary least-squares multiple regression analyses, the rates of GPP and PR, and their ratio (GPP/PR) were modeled as a function of TN, TP, and DOC that had been measured concomitantly. The “best” models predicted GPP and GPP/PR ratio in channel habitats as a function of DOC; and GPP, PR, and GPP/PR in non-channel floodplain habitats as a function of TN and/or TP. The models explained between 46 and 74 % of the variance in channel habitats and between 17 and 87 % of the variance in non-channel floodplain habitats. Net autotrophy (mean GPP/PR 3.0) of planktonic metabolism in our work supports the prevailing view that wetlands are a net sink for carbon dioxide. We propose a nutrient-DOC framework, combined with hydrological and geomorphological delineations, to better predict and understand the planktonic metabolism in inland floodplain wetlands.

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We thank Jordan Iles, Steve Jacobs, Sarah Imgraben, and Ben Daily for help in field work; Ed Czobik for nutrient analyses; and Marion Costigan (University of New England) and John Pengelly (Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre) for DOC analyses. We thank Neil Saintilan, Tim Pritchard, Renee Shepherd, Jeffery Hillan, Michael Maher, Graeme Enders, James Maguire, Paul Childs, Paul McInnes, Paul Packard, Matt McClelland, Simon Carmichael, Narelle Jones and Debbie Love for logistic support. We are grateful to Graeme Enders, Michael Maher, Sharon Bowen, and Peter Scanes for comments, and two reviewers for constructive criticisms. This study was partly supported by the NSW Wetland Recovery Program and Rivers Environmental Restoration Program, both jointly funded by the NSW Government and the Australian Government’s Water for the Future-Water Smart Australia Program. The view and conclusions expressed in this study were those of the authors and do not represent the official policy, either expressed or implied, of the respective organizations.

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Correspondence to Tsuyoshi Kobayashi.

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Kobayashi, T., Ralph, T.J., Ryder, D.S. et al. Gross primary productivity of phytoplankton and planktonic respiration in inland floodplain wetlands of southeast Australia: habitat-dependent patterns and regulating processes. Ecol Res 28, 833–843 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-013-1065-6

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  • Carbon cycling and transformation
  • Channel and floodplain habitats
  • Environmental water
  • Predictive model
  • Semi-arid wetlands