Isotopic variation among Amazonian floodplain woody plants and implications for food-web research Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2016, Universidade Estadual de Campinas UNICAMP. All rights reserved. Isotopic variation within food sources adds uncertainty to models intended to reconstruct trophic pathways. Understanding this variation is pivotal for planning sampling protocols for food-web research. This study investigates natural variation in C and N stable isotopes among plant species in two western Amazon flooded forests with contrasting watershed biogeochemistry (white-water várzea-forest and black-water igapó -forest). Our objectives were to compare δ13C and δ15N of leaves and fruits between sites; assess the magnitude of within-site variation in δ13C and δ15N of leaves (várzea: 28 spp., igapó: 10 spp.) and fruits (várzea: 22 spp., igapó: 22 spp.); determine within-plant variation in δ13C and δ15 of leaf, wood and fruit tissues; and test whether inter-specific variation in δ13C and δ15N influence the results of a mixing model predicting the contribution of terrestrial C sources to an aquatic consumer. Mean δ13C values of leaves and fruits were not statistically different between the two sites despite regional differences in biogeochemistry and floristic composition. In contrast, mean δ15N of leaves and fruits were significantly lower at the várzea than at the igapósite. The high floristic diversity of both forests was reflected in large within-site interspecific variation in both δ13C and δ15N. Paired comparisons revealed that δ13C of wood and fruits and δ15N of fruits were generally greater than values obtained for leaves from the same plant. The predicted contribution of different carbon sources to the consumer biomass changed between models as a function of source variability. We discuss implications of source variation for designing sampling protocols, interpreting isotopic signatures, and establishing trophic links between plants and consumers. Our findings highlight the importance of in situ sampling to establish reliable primary production baselines for local food webs.

author list (cited authors)

  • Correa, S. B., Winemiller, K., & Cárdenas, D.

citation count

  • 4

publication date

  • June 2016