Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 317–330 | Cite as

Nitrogen dynamics in seasonally flooded soils in the Amazon floodplain

  • Matthias Koschorreck
  • Assad Darwich


Large areas of the Amazon are subject to seasonal flooding due to water level changes of the river. This ‘flood pulse’ causes rapidly changing conditions for microorganisms living in the soils which affects the cycling of nitrogen in the ecosystem. An understanding of the nitrogen dynamics in the seasonally flooded soils is essential for the development of productive and sustainable management concepts. We measured nitrogen concentrations, denitrifier enzyme activity (DEA), cell numbers of nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria, respiration, pH and total carbon in the seasonally flooded soils over one entire annual hydrological cycle. By comparing three sites with different vegetation (forest, aquatic macrophyte stand and bare sediment with annual herbs) we assessed the effect of vegetation on soil nitrogen dynamics. Inorganic nitrogen was always dominated by ammonium indicating reduced conditions in the soil even during the terrestrial phase. Although conditions were generally poor for nitrification we observed high numbers of nitrifying bacteria between 104 and 107cells g−1. Pulses of ammonium as well as high DEA were observed during the transition periods between aquatic and terrestrial phase. Thus the alternation between aquatic and terrestrial phase promotes nitrogen mineralization and denitrification in the soils. There were no plausible correlations between microbial activities and numbers with soil physical or chemical parameters except a relation between the numbers of nitrate reducing bacteria and soil moisture (R2 = 0.81) and ammonium (R2 = 0.92) at one site. This shows the complex regulation patterns in this habitat. Different vegetation did not alter the general patterns of nitrogen dynamics but the absolute extend of fluctuations. We conclude that both the soil physical and chemical changes directly caused by the flood pulse and the vegetation have a great impact on microbial nitrogen turnover in the soils. The effects of the flood pulse can be buffered by a fine soil texture or a litter layer which prevents desiccation of the soil during the terrestrial phase.

Amazon Flood pulse Floodplain Microbial ecology Nitrogen 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Inland Water ResearchUFZ – Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig-Halle GmbHMagdeburgGermany
  2. 2.Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA)ManausBrazil

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