Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Linking patterns of freshwater discharge and sources of organic matter within the Río de la Plata estuary and adjacent marshes

Leandro Bergamino A E , Mark Schuerch B , Adriana Tudurí C , Silvina Carretero D and Felipe García-Rodríguez A

A Centro Universitario Regional Este (CURE), Universidad de la República, Ruta 9 y Ruta 15 s/n, CP 27000 Rocha, Uruguay.

B University of Cambridge, Department of Geography, Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, Downing Place, CB2 3EN, Cambridge, UK.

C Universidad de la República, Facultad de Ciencias, Sección Oceanología, Iguá 4225, Montevideo 11400, Uruguay.

D Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata (UNLP), 64 número 3, 1900 La Plata, Argentina.

E Corresponding author. Email: lbergamino@gmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF16286
Submitted: 13 August 2016  Accepted: 6 December 2016   Published online: 13 February 2017

Abstract

We investigated carbon isotopic ratios (δ13C) v. carbon to nitrogen (C : N) ratios for surface sediments throughout a large estuarine system (Río de la Plata, RdlP), combined with sediment cores from adjacent marshes to infer main carbon sources. We also evaluated the influence of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and associated high freshwater-discharge events on the organic-matter transport within the estuary. The isotopic pattern in surface sediments of the RdlP showed the upper reaches to be influenced by riverine particulate matter (δ13C range: –24 to –26‰). Similarly, in the sediment cores from marshes of the upper reaches, δ13C values decreased from –24‰ in ancient sediments to –28‰ in recent sediments, reflecting an increased contribution of organic matter from land, including C3 plants and freshwater phytoplankton, during the past 50 years. However, the lower reaches represent a depositional environment of marine algae (δ13C range: –21 to –23‰), with no influence of detritus from adjacent marshes, indicating minor erosion of the marshes in the lower reaches operating as carbon-sink habitats. Our isotopic analysis showed that the transport and deposition of terrigenous organic matter within the RdlP and adjacent marsh habitat appear to be both temporally and spatially linked to hydrology patterns.

Additional keywords: carbon isotopes, C : N ratios, estuarine sediments, ENSO events, hydrology patterns, isotopic models.


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