Nutrient relations of dwarf Rhizophora mangle L. mangroves on peat in eastern Puerto Rico

Medina E, Cuevas E, Lugo AE (2010) Nutrient relations of
dwarf Rhizophora mangle L. mangroves on peat in eastern
Puerto Rico. Plant Ecol 207:13–24

Dwarf mangroves on peat substrate growing in eastern Puerto Rico (Los Machos, Ceiba State Forest) were analyzed for element concentration, leaf sap osmolality, and isotopic signatures of C and N in leaves and substrate. Mangrove communities behind the fringe presented poor structural development with maximum height below 1.5 m, lacked a main stem, and produced horizontal stems from which rhizophores developed. This growth form departs from other dwarf mangrove sites in Belize, Panama, and Florida. The dwarf mangroves were not stressed by salinity but by the low P availability reflected in low P concentrations in adult and senescent leaves. Low P availability was associated with reduced remobilization of N and accumulation of K in senescent leaves, contrasting with the behavior of this cation in terrestrial plants. Remobilization of N and P before leaf abscission on a weight basis indicated complete resorption of these nutrients. On an area basis, resorption was complete for P but not for N. Sulfur accumulated markedly with leaf age, reaching values up to 400%, compared with relatively modest accumulation of Na (40%) in the same leaves. This suggests a more effective rejection of Na than sulfate at the root level. Dwarf mangrove leaves had more positive d13C values, which were not related to salinity, but possibly to drought during the dry season due to reduced flooding, and/or reduced hydraulic conductance under P limitation. Negative leaf d15N values were associated with low leaf P concentrations. Comparison with other R. mangle communities showed that P concentration in adult leaves below 13 mmol kg-1 is associated with negative d15N values, whereas leaves with P concentrations above 30 mmol kg-1 in non-polluted environments had positive d15N values.