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The Biogeochemistry of the Amazon Basin$
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Michael E. McClain, Reynaldo Victoria, and Jeffrey E. Richey

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195114317

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195114317.001.0001

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Geoecological Controls on Elemental Fluxes in Communities of Higher Plants in Amazonian Floodplains

Geoecological Controls on Elemental Fluxes in Communities of Higher Plants in Amazonian Floodplains

(p.209) 13 Geoecological Controls on Elemental Fluxes in Communities of Higher Plants in Amazonian Floodplains
The Biogeochemistry of the Amazon Basin

Martin Worbes

Wolfgang J. Junk

Oxford University Press

Navigators visiting the Amazon during the fifteenth century provided the earliest descriptions of aquatic systems in the region, but it was not until mid twentieth century that systematic studies of the limnology of Amazon waters began (Sioli 1984). The inclusion of vegetation as an important part of the aquatic biota was only possible after the relatively recent change from traditional potamic limnology to wetlands limnology (Sioli 1975). The first studies of the vegetation of Amazon wetlands consisted mainly of species descriptions, and it is only recently that studies of floodplain vegetation have attained a level of importance equivalent to that of studies dealing with water chemistry, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and fishes. For the past thirty years, fertile floodplain systems along Whitewater rivers (várzea) have been focal areas of colonization. This fertility also supports high rates of primary production within the higher plants, especially of the herbaceous vegetation (Piedade et al. 1991, Junk and Piedade 1993a, 1997). Quickly turning-over pools of nutrients (Junk and Furch 1991, Furch and Junk 1992, 1997a) and direct connections with contiguous terra firme forest and river channels (Alves 1993, Furch and Junk 1997b) are also characteristic of these floodplain systems. As a consequence of the annual floodpulse (Junk et al. 1989), floodplain vegetation is subjected to aquatic and terrestrial phases, which hold important ecological implications for both the plant populations and related aquatic and terrestrial biota. Life cycles of the species and the time available for growing depend upon the duration of inundation and drought periods and the habit of the species. During the year, pulses of growth and dormancy occur and herbaceous vegetation changes its species composition according to the phase of the hydrological cycle. In this chapter we discuss the distribution and the development of plant communities in floodplain areas, mainly of the big Whitewater rivers, focusing on factors such as diversity, species composition, biomass and primary production. Based upon these factors, we also discuss the annual dynamics of bioelements stocks and their turnover through herbaceous and floodplain forest communities. Finally, we examine the implications of such nutrient dynamics and turnover for the aquatic biota.

Keywords:   aquatic macrophytes, cation exchange capacity, flood cycles, hydrological cycle, number of species, oxygen deficiency, periphyton, savanna, tree-ring analysis

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