The objectives of this study were to determine effects of nutrient enrichment on plant growth, nutrient dynamics, and photosynthesis in a disturbed mangrove forest in an abandoned mosquito impoundment in Florida. Impounding altered the hydrology and soil chemistry of the site. In 1997, we established a factorial experiment along a tree-height gradient with three zones, i.e., fringe, transition, dwarf, and three fertilizer treatment levels, i.e., nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), control, in Mosquito Impoundment 23 on the eastern side of Indian River. Transects traversed the forest perpendicular to the shoreline, from a Rhizophora mangle-dominated fringe through an Avicennia germinans stand of intermediate height, and into a scrub or dwarf stand of A. germinans in the hinterland. Growth rates increased significantly in response to N fertilization. Our growth data indicated that this site is N-limited along the tree-height gradient. After 2 years of N addition, dwarf trees resembled vigorously growing saplings. Addition of N also affected internal dynamics of N and P and caused increases in rates of photosynthesis. These findings contrast with results for a R. mangle-dominated forest in Belize where the fringe is N-limited, but the dwarf zone is P-limited and the transition zone is co-limited by N and P. This study demonstrated that patterns of nutrient limitation in mangrove ecosystems are complex, that not all processes respond similarly to the same nutrient, and that similar habitats are not limited by the same nutrient when different mangrove forests are compared.
Additional publication details
Nitrogen limitation of growth and nutrient dynamics in a disturbed mangrove forest, Indian River Lagoon, Florida