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The trapping of organic matter within plant patches in the channels of the Okavango Delta: a matter of quality
Swedish Museum of Natural History, Department of Geology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1012-0642
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2017 (English)In: Aquatic Sciences, ISSN 1015-1621, E-ISSN 1420-9055, Vol. 79, no 3, 661-674 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The role of in-stream aquatic vegetation as ecosystem engineers in the distribution of organic matter was investigated in the Okavango Delta, one of the world’s largest oligotrophic wetlands. The Okavango channel beds are covered up to 50% with submerged macrophyte patches. By accumulating and concentrating organic matter in the sediments below the patches, macrophytes are likely able to locally forestall a deficiency of nutrients. Up to 21 times more N, 18 times more C, 13 times more P and 6 times more Si can be found in vegetated sediments compared to non-vegetated sediments. Nutrient specific accumulation relates to its relative scarcity in the overlaying water. There is a depletion of dissolved N relative to P, whereas Si is relatively abundant. The Okavango Delta water can generally be characterised as oligotrophic based on plant species composition (e.g. presence of carnivorous plants and absence of floating plants), low plant N:P ratios, and low nutrient- and element-concentrations. Local mineralization and intensified nutrient cycling in the sediments is hypothesized to be crucial for the macrophytes’ survival because it provides a key source of the essential nutrients which plants otherwise cannot obtain in sufficient quantities from the nutrient poor water. By engineering the ecosystem as such, channel vegetation also retards the loss of elements and nutrients to island groundwater flow, contributing to one of the key processes driving the high productivity of the Okavango Delta, making it unique among its kind.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 79, no 3, 661-674 p.
National Category
Environmental Sciences Geochemistry
Research subject
The changing Earth
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:nrm:diva-2573DOI: 10.1007/s00027-017-0527-2OAI: oai:DiVA.org:nrm-2573DiVA: diva2:1162429
Available from: 2017-12-04 Created: 2017-12-04 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved

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Publisher's full texthttps://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00027-017-0527-2

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