Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 90, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as

Allochthonous and autochthonous carbon sources for fish in floodplain lagoons of an Australian dryland river

  • Elvio S. F. Medeiros
  • Angela H. Arthington


Dryland rivers associated with arid and semi-arid land areas offer an opportunity to explore food web concepts and models of energy sources in systems that experience unpredictable flooding and long dry spells. This study investigated the sources of energy supporting three species of fish feeding at different trophic levels within floodplain lagoons of the Macintyre River in the headwaters of the Murray-Darling river system, Australia. Stable isotope analyses revealed that fish consumers derived, on average, 46.9% of their biomass from zooplankton, 38.1% from Coarse Particulate Organic Matter (CPOM) and 24.0% from algae. Ambassis agassizii derived on average 57.6% of its biomass carbon from zooplankton and 20.4–27.8% from algae or CPOM. Leiopotherapon unicolor derived most of its carbon from zooplankton and CPOM (38.3–39.5%), with relatively high contributions from algae compared to the other species (33.3%). An average of 48.4% of the biomass of Nematalosa erebi was derived from zooplankton, with CPOM contributing another 38.1%. Zooplankton was the most important source of organic carbon supporting all three fish species in floodplain lagoons. Phytoplankton, and possibly, particulate organic matter in the seston, are the most likely energy sources for the planktonic suspension feeders (zooplankton) and, consequently, the fish that feed on them. These results indicate a stronger dependence of consumers on autochthonous sources and on locally produced organic matter from the riparian zone (i.e., the Riverine Productivity Model), than on other resources.


Fish Food web Stable isotopes Riverine Productivity Model 



Fish were collected under Queensland and New South Wales Fisheries Permit Nos. PRM00234H, PRM03315D and P01/0089, and Griffith University Research Ethics Protocol No. AES/02/01/aec. The authors thank Glenn Wilson (Northern Basin Laboratory, MDFRC, Goondiwindi) for contributions to fieldwork design and methods; René Diocares (Stable Isotope Analysis laboratory, Griffith University) for technical advice and sample analysis. We are grateful to Stuart Bunn (ARI, Griffith University) for valuable advice on food web analysis and Wade Hadwen (ARI, Griffith University) for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Elvio Medeiros thanks the Brazilian Foundation for Post-Graduate Education (CAPES) for his PhD scholarship (BEX 1475/99-1). Financial and administrative support from Griffith University is also gratefully acknowledged. This paper is a contribution to project 1.F.102 of the eWater Cooperative Research Centre.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elvio S. F. Medeiros
    • 1
    • 2
  • Angela H. Arthington
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian Rivers Institute and eWater Cooperative Research CentreGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia
  2. 2.Centro de Ciências Biológicas e Sociais AplicadasUniversidade Estadual da Paraíba—UEPBTambiáBrazil

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