The importance of phytoplankton production for carbon budgets in a semiarid floodplain wetland


  • Miguel Álvarez-Cobelas National Museum of Natural History, CSIC
  • David G. Angeler Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
  • Carmen Rojo Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia
  • Santos Cirujano Royal Botanical Garden, CSIC



chlorophyll-specific net primary production, plankton biomass, dissolved organic carbon, nutrients, zooplankton, macrophyte production


Phytoplankton production (PP) in wetlands is not measured as often as that of macrophytes. A three year-study during a period of sustained high flooding was undertaken in a central Spanish floodplain wetland (Las Tablas de Daimiel National Park) to determine net PP, its spatial heterogeneity and controlling factors, and compare it with primary production in macrophyte communities. This enabled us to estimate carbon budgets for each community. All PP variables showed high spatial and temporal variability among sites, resulting in low coherence even when flooding connected all sites. Net PP corresponded to 25- 36% of submerged plant production and 3-10% of helophyte production. Net PP was controlled by different size fractions of phytoplankton biomass at different wetland sites. Neither nutrients nor zooplankton affected net PP or productivity. A high spatiotemporal variability of PP in wetlands occurs arising from complex processes that affect the underwater light field. Carbon budgets of phytoplankton often exceeded those of submerged macrophytes and attained between 4 and 37% of helophyte budgets. Although usually considered to be marginal, our study shows that PP in the open water of wetlands should be taken into account for determining accurate wetland carbon budgets, mostly in periods of high flooding, which often result in changing the carbon budget of primary producers.


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How to Cite

Álvarez-Cobelas, M., Angeler, D. G., Rojo, C., & Cirujano, S. (2011). The importance of phytoplankton production for carbon budgets in a semiarid floodplain wetland. Anales Del Jardín Botánico De Madrid, 68(2), 253–267.




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