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

Sources of carbon fuelling production in an arid floodplain river

Michele A. Burford A B , Andrew J. Cook A , Christine S. Fellows A , Stephen R. Balcombe A and Stuart E. Bunn A
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

A Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland 4111, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: m.burford@griffith.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 59(3) 224-234 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF07159
Submitted: 30 August 2007  Accepted: 14 February 2008   Published: 30 April 2008

Abstract

Dryland rivers are characterised by highly pulsed and unpredictable flow, and support a diverse biota. The present study examined the contribution of floodplain sources to the productivity of a disconnected dryland river; that is a waterhole, after a major overland flood event. Rate measures of productivity were combined with stable isotope and biomass data on the food web in the waterhole and floodplain. The present study estimated that 50% of the fish carbon in the waterhole after flooding was derived from floodplain food sources. In the few months after retraction of the river to isolated waterholes, the large biomass of fish concentrated from the flooding decreased by 80%, most likely as a result of starvation. Based on the development of a carbon budget for the waterhole, mass mortality is hypothesised to be the cause of the high rates of heterotrophic production in the waterhole. The present study suggests that floodplain inputs are important for fuelling short-term production in waterholes, but via an unconventional pathway; that is, fish mortality. The episodic nature of flooding in dryland rivers means that changes in flow regimes, such as water regulation or abstraction, will reduce flooding and hence floodplain subsidies to the river. This is likely to have significant impacts on river productivity.

Additional keywords: algal production, bacterial production, fish, waterhole.


Acknowledgements

We would like to thank: Angela Arthington, Rick Cunjack, James Fawcett, Wade Hadwen, Mavourneen Lutton and Angelene Wright for assistance with field work, Jon Marshall for physico-chemical data, Dan Wruck for nutrient analyses, Susie Green for bacterial counts, Rene Diocares for stable isotope analyses, Peter Pollard for helpful discussions on bacterial productivity, and Wade Hadwen and Vanessa Fry for useful comments on the manuscript. Our research was conducted under Queensland Fisheries Permit PRM00157K and Griffith University Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee permit AES/03/02. Funding was provided by the Cooperative Centre for Freshwater Ecology and the Australian Rivers Institute.


References

American Public Health Association (1995). ‘Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater.’ 20th edn. (Eds A. E. Greenburg, L. S. Clesceri and A. D. Eaton.) (American Public Health Association: Washington, D.C.)

Arthington, A. H. , Balcombe, S. R. , Wilson, G. A. , Thoms, M. C. , and Marshall, J. (2005). Spatial and temporal variation in fish-assemblage structure in isolated waterholes during the 2001 dry season of an arid-zone floodplain river, Cooper Creek, Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 56, 25–35.
CrossRef |

Balcombe, S. R. , Bunn, S. E. , McKenzie-Smith, F. J. , and Davies, P. M. (2005). Variability of fish diets between dry and flood periods in an arid zone floodplain river. Journal of Fish Biology 67, 1552–1567.
CrossRef |

Balcombe, S. R. , Bunn, S. E. , Arthington, A. H. , Fawcett, J. H. , McKenzie-Smith, F. J. , and Wright, A. (2007). Fish larvae, growth and biomass relationships in an Australian arid zone river: links between floodplains and waterholes. Freshwater Biology 52, 2385–2398.
CrossRef |

Bunn, S. E. (1988). Processing of leaf litter in a northern Jarrah forest stream, Western Australia: I. Seasonal differences. Hydrobiologia 162, 201–210.
CrossRef |

Bunn, S. E. , Davies, P. M. , and Winning, M. (2003). Sources of organic carbon supporting the food web of an arid zone floodplain river. Freshwater Biology 48, 619–635.
CrossRef |

Bunn, S. E. , Thoms, M. C. , Hamilton, S. K. , and Capon, S. J. (2006a). Flow variability in dryland rivers: boom, bust and the bits in between. River Research and Applications 22, 179–186.
CrossRef |

Bunn S. E., Balcombe S. R., Davies P. M., Fellows C. S., and McKenzie-Smith F. J. (2006b) Aquatic productivity and food webs of desert river ecosystems. In ‘Ecology of Desert Rivers’. (Ed. R. T. Kingsford.) pp. 76–99. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.)

Chapra S. C. (1997). ‘Surface Water-Quality Modeling.’ (WCB/McGraw-Hill: New York.)

Ducklow H. (2000). Bacterial production and biomass in the oceans. In ‘Microbial Ecology of the Oceans’ (Ed. D. L. Kirchman.) pp. 85–120. (John Wiley: New York.)

Fagan, S. D. , and Nanson, G. C. (2004). The morphology and formation of floodplain-surface channels, Cooper Creek, Australia. Geomorphology 60, 107–126.
CrossRef |

Fellows, C. S. , Wos, M. L. , Pollard, P. C. , and Bunn, S. E. (2007). Ecosystem metabolism in a dryland river waterhole. Marine and Freshwater Research 58, 250–262.
CrossRef |

Fisher, S. G. , Gray, L. J. , Grimm, N. B. , and Busch, D. E. (1982). Temporal succession in a desert stream ecosystem following flash flooding. Ecological Monographs 52, 93–110.
CrossRef |

Francis C., and Sheldon F. (2002). River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehnh.) organic matter as a carbon source in the lower Darling River, Australia. Hydrobiologia 481, 113–124.

Glencross, B. D. (2006). Nutritional management of barramundi: Lates calcifer – A review. Aquaculture Nutrition 12, 291–309.
CrossRef |

Hamilton, S. K. , Sippel, S. J. , Calheiros, D. F. , and Melack, J. M. (1997). An anoxic event and other biogeochemical effects of the Pantanal wetland on the Paraguay River. Limnology and Oceanography 42, 257–272.


Hamilton, S. K. , Bunn, S. E. , Thoms, M. C. , and Marshall, J. C. (2005). Persistence of aquatic refugia between flow pulses in a dryland river system. Limnology and Oceanography 50, 743–754.


Hobbie, J. E. , Daley, R. J. , and Jasper, S. (1977). Use of nuclepore filters for counting bacteria by fluorescence microscopy. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 33, 1225–1228.
PubMed |

Jeffrey S. W., and Welshmeyer N. A. (1997). Spectrophotometric and fluorometric equations in common use in oceanography. In ‘Phytoplankton Pigments in Oceanography’. (Eds S. W. Jeffrey, R. F. C. Mantoura and S. W. Wright.) pp. 597–615. (Monographs on Oceanographic Methodology No.10. UNESCO Publication.)

Jenkins, K. M. , and Boulton, A. J. (2003). Connectivity in a dryland river: Short-term aquatic microinvertebrate recruitment following floodplain inundation. Ecology 84, 2708–2723.
CrossRef |

Jones, J. B. , Schade, J. D. , Fisher, S. C. , and Grimm, N. B. (1997). Organic matter dynamics in Sycamore Creek, a desert stream in Arizona, USA. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 16, 78–82.
CrossRef |

Junk W. J., Bayley P. B., and Sparks R. E. (1989). The flood pulse concept in river-floodplain systems. In ‘Proceedings of the International Large River Symposium’. (Ed. D. P. Dodge.) pp. 110–127. (Canadian Special Publication on Fisheries and Aquatic Science, 106.)

Kingsford, R. T. , Curtin, A. L. , and Porter, J. (1999). Water flows on Cooper Creek in arid Australia determine ‘boom’ and ‘bust’ periods for waterbirds. Biological Conservation 88, 231–248.
CrossRef |

Kingsford, R. T. , Jenkins, K. M. , and Porter, J. L. (2004). Imposed hydrological stability on lakes in arid Australia and effects on waterbirds. Ecology 85, 2478–2492.
CrossRef |

Knighton, A. D. , and Nanson, G. C. (2001). An event-based approach to the hydrology of arid zone rivers in the Channel Country of Australia. Journal of Hydrology 254, 102–123.
CrossRef |

Lewis, W. M. , Hamilton, S. K. , Lasi, M. A. , Rodriguez, M. , and Saunders, J. F. (2000). Ecological determinism on the Orinoco floodplain. Bioscience 50, 681–692.
CrossRef |

Lewis, W. M. , Hamilton, S. K. , Rodriguez, M. , Saunders, J. F. , and Lasi, M. A. (2001). Foodweb analysis of the Orinoco floodplain based on production estimates and stable isotope data. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 20, 241–254.
CrossRef |

Maher, M. , and Carpenter, S. M. (1984). Benthic studies of waterfowl breeding habitat in south-western New South Wales. II. Chironomid populations. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 35, 97–110.
CrossRef |

Parsons T. R., Maita Y., and Lalli C. M. (1984). ‘A Manual of Chemical and Biological Methods for Seawater Analysis.’ (Pergamon: Oxford.)

Pease, A. A. , Davis, J. J. , Edwards, M. S. , and Turner, T. F. (2006). Habitat and resource use by larval and juvenile fishes in an arid-land river (Rio Grande, New Mexico). Freshwater Biology 51, 475–486.
CrossRef |

Puckridge, J. T. , Sheldon, F. , Walker, K. F. , and Boulton, A. J. (1998). Flow variability and the ecology of large rivers. Marine and Freshwater Research 49, 55–72.
CrossRef |

Puckridge, J. T. , Walker, K. F. , and Costelloe, J. F. (2000). Hydrological persistence and the ecology of dryland rivers. Regulated Rivers: Research and Management 16, 385–402.
CrossRef |

Rees, G. N. , Beattie, G. , Bowen, P. A. , and Hart, B. T. (2005). Heterotrophic bacterial production in the lower Murray River, south-eastern Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 56, 835–841.
CrossRef |

Robertson, A. I. , Bunn, S. E. , Boon, P. I. , and Walker, K. F. (1999). Sources, sinks and transformations of organic carbon in Australian floodplain rivers. Marine and Freshwater Research 50, 813–829.
CrossRef |

Roshier, D. A. , Robertson, A. I. , and Kingsford, R. T. (2002). Responses of waterbirds to flooding in an arid region of Australia and implications for conservation. Biological Conservation 106, 399–411.
CrossRef |

Shiel, R. J. , Costelloe, J. F. , Reid, J. R. W. , Hudson, P. , and Powling, J. (2006). Zooplankton diversity and assemblages in arid zone rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin, Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 57, 49–60.
CrossRef |

Stanley, E. H. , and Fisher, S. G. (1997). Ecosystem expansion and contraction in streams. Bioscience 47, 427–435.
CrossRef |

Tacon A. G. J. (1988). ‘The nutrition and feeding of farmed fish and shrimp – A training manual. 3. Feeding methods.’ (FAO Trust Fund GCP/RLA/075/ITA Project: Rome.)

Uehlinger, U. , and Brock, J. T. (2005). Periphyton metabolism along a nutrient gradient in a desert river (Truckee River, Nevada, USA). Aquatic Sciences 67, 507–516.
CrossRef |

Valett, H. M. , Baker, M. A. , Morrice, J. A. , Crawford, C. S. , Molles Jr, M. C. , Dahm, C. N. , Moyer, D. L. , Thibault, J. R. , and Ellis, L. M. (2005). Biogeochemical and metabolic responses to the flood pulse in a semiarid floodplain. Ecology 86, 220–234.
CrossRef |

Vink, S. , Bormans, M. , Ford, P. W. , and Grigg, N. J. (2005). Quantifying ecosystem metabolism in the middle reaches of the Murrumbidgee River during irrigation flow releases. Marine and Freshwater Research 56, 227–241.
CrossRef |

Wootton, J. T. , Parker, M. S. , and Power, M. E. (1996). Effects of disturbance on river food webs. Science 273, 1558–1561.
CrossRef |

Young W. J., and Kingsford R. T. (2006). Flow variability in large unregulated dryland rivers. In ‘Ecology of Desert Rivers’. (Ed. R. T. Kingsford.) pp. 47–75. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.)

Zonneveld, C. (1998). A cell-based model for the chlorophyll a to carbon ratio in phytoplankton. Ecological Modelling 113, 55–70.
CrossRef |



Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (40)