We assessed the sensitivity of a viviparous estuarine tree species, Rhizophora mangle, to historic sublethal mutagenic stress across a fine spatial scale by comparing the frequency of trees producing albino propagules in historically contaminated (n=4) and uncontaminated (n=11) forests in Tampa Bay, Florida, USA. Data from uncontaminated forests were used to provide estimates of background mutation rates. We also determined whether other fitness parameters were negatively correlated with mutagenic stress (e.g., degree of outcrossing and numbers of reproducing trees km-1). Contaminated sites in Tampa Bay had significantly higher frequencies of trees that were heterozygous for albinism per 1000 total reproducing trees (FHT) than uncontaminated forests (mean ?? SE: 11.4 ?? 4.3 vs 4.3 ?? 0.73, P<0.022). Two sites that were contaminated by oil failed to show elevated FHT, although in the first instance, the mutagenic effects of the oil may have been reduced by several weeks of weathering in open water before coming ashore, and in the second > 25 yrs of subsequent recruitment and tree replacement may have allowed an initial elevation in the FHT to decay. Patterns of FHT were not explained by distance from the bay mouth or the degree of urbanization. However, there was a significant positive relationship between tree size and FHT (r=0.83, P<0.018), which suggests that forests with older or larger trees provide a more lasting record of cumulative mutagenic stress. No other fitness parameters correlated with FHT. There was a difference in FHT between two latitudes, as determined by comparing Tampa Bay with literature values for Puerto Rico. The sensitivity of this bioassay for the effects of mutagens will facilitate future monitoring of contamination events and comparisons of bay-wide recovery in future decades. Development of a database of FHT values for a range of subtropical and tropical estuaries is underway that will provide a baseline against which to compare mutational consequences of global change. ?? 2005, The Society of Wetland Scientists.
Additional publication details
Albino mutation rates in red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle L.) as a bioassay of contamination history in Tampa Bay, Florida, USA