Rhizophora mangle and Laguncularia racemosa co-occur along many intertidal floodplains in the Neotropics. Their patterns of dominance shift along various gradients, coincident with salinity, soil fertility, and tidal flooding. We used leaf gas exchange metrics to investigate the strategies of these two species in mixed culture to simulate competition under different salinity concentrations and hydroperiods. Semidiurnal tidal and permanent flooding hydroperiods at two constant salinity regimes (10 g L−1 and 40 g L−1) were simulated over 10 months. Assimilation (A), stomatal conductance (gw), intercellular CO2 concentration (Ci), instantaneous photosynthetic water use efficiency (PWUE), and photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency (PNUE) were determined at the leaf level for both species over two time periods. Rhizophora mangle had significantly higher PWUE than did L. racemosa seedlings at low salinities; however, L. racemosa had higher PNUE and stomatal conductance and gw, accordingly, had greater intercellular CO2 (calculated) during measurements. Both species maintained similar capacities for assimilation at 10 and 40 g L−1 salinity and during both permanent and tidal hydroperiod treatments. Hydroperiod alone had no detectable effect on leaf gas exchange. However, PWUE increased and PNUE decreased for both species at 40 g L−1 salinity compared to 10 g L−1. At 40 g L−1 salinity, PNUE was higher for L. racemosa than R. mangle with tidal flooding. These treatments indicated that salinity influences gas exchange efficiency, might affect how gases are apportioned intercellularly, and accentuates different strategies for distributing leaf nitrogen to photosynthesis for these two species while growing competitively.
Additional publication details
Leaf gas exchange and nutrient use efficiency help explain the distribution of two Neotropical mangroves under contrasting flooding and salinity