A Limnological Examination of the Southwestern Amazon, Madre de Dios, Peru
This dissertation investigates the limnology of the southwestern Peruvian Amazon centered on the Madre de Dios department by examining first the geomorphology and then the ecology and biogeochemistry of the region's fluvial systems.
Madre de Dios, Peru is world renowned for its prolific biodiversity and its location within the Andes biodiversity hotspot. It is also a site of study regarding the development of the Fitzcarrald Arch and that feature's geomorphological importance as the drainage center for the headwaters of the Madeira River - the Amazon's largest tributary and as well as its role as a physical divider of genetic evolution in the Amazon. Though each of these has been studied by a variety of prominent researchers, the ability to investigate all the aspects of this unique region is hampered by the lack of a regional geomorphological map. This study aims to fill that gap by using remote sensing techniques on digital elevation models, satellite imagery and soil, geology and geoecological maps already in publication to create a geomorphological map. The resulting map contains ten distinct landform types that exemplify the dominance of fluvial processes in shaping this landscape. The river terraces of the Madre de Dios River are delineated in their entirety as well as the various dissected relief units and previously undefined units. The demarcation of the boundaries of these geomorphic units will provide invaluable assistance to the selection of field sites by future researchers as well as insights into the origin of the high biodiversity indices of this region and aid in planning for biodiversity conservation.
Secondly this study examines 25 tropical floodplain lakes along 300 km of the Manu River within the Manu National Park in the Madre de Dios department. Alternative stable state and regime shifts in shallow lakes typically have been examined in lakes in temperate and boreal regions and within anthropogenically disturbed basins but have rarely been studied in tropical or in undisturbed regions. In contrast this study focuses on a tropical region of virtually no human disturbance and evaluates the effects of hydrological variability on ecosystem structure and dynamics. Using satellite imagery a 23 yr timeline of ecological regime shifts in Amazon oxbow lakes or "cochas" is reconstructed. The study shows that almost 25% of the river's floodplain lakes experience periodic abrupt vegetative changes with an average 3.4% existing in an alternative stable state in any given year. State changes typically occur from a stable phytoplankton-dominated state to a short lived, <3 yr, floating macrophytic state and often occur independent of regional flooding. We theorize that multiple dynamics, both internal and external, drive vegetative regime shifts in the Manu but insufficient data yet exists in this remote region to identify the key processes.
To complete the investigation of tropical limnology the third study compares and contrasts the nutrient-productivity ration of floodplain and non-floodplain lakes globally and regionally. For over 70 years a strong positive relationship between sestonic chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) and total phosphorus (TP) has been established with phosphorus generally viewed as the most limiting factor to productivity. Most of these studies, however, have focused on northern, temperate regions where the lakes are typically postglacial, isolated and fed by small streams. Relatively little work has been done on floodplain lakes which are semi or permanently connected to the river. This study examines the relationship between nutrients and productivity in floodplain lakes globally through an extensive literature synthesis. Values for total phosphorus, total nitrogen and chlorophyll-a were collected for 523 floodplain lakes, represented by 288 data points while 551 data points were collected for 5444 non-floodplain lakes. Analysis revealed that globally, floodplain lakes do not show any significant difference in the total phosphorus/chlorophyll-a relationship from that found in non-floodplain lakes but significant differences are seen between tropical and temperate lakes. We propose that the term `floodplain' lake should serve as purely a geographical descriptor and that it is lacking as an ecological indicator. Instead factors such as precipitation seasonality, hydrological connectivity and regional flooding regimes are better indicators of high or low productivity in floodplain lakes.
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