Variable nutrient stoichiometry (carbon:nitrogen:phosphorus) across trophic levels determines community and ecosystem properties in an oligotrophic mangrove system

Oecologia
By: , and 

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Abstract

Our study investigated the carbon:nitrogen:phosphorus (C:N:P) stoichiometry of mangrove island of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (Twin Cays, Belize). The C:N:P of abiotic and biotic components of this oligotrophic ecosystem was measured and served to build networks of nutrient flows for three distinct mangrove forest zones (tall seaward fringing forest, inland dwarf forests and a transitional zone). Between forest zones, the stoichiometry of primary producers, heterotrophs and abiotic components did not change significantly, but there was a significant difference in C:N:P, and C, N, and P biomass, between the functional groups mangrove trees, other primary producers, heterotrophs, and abiotic components. C:N:P decreased with increasing trophic level. Nutrient recycling in the food webs was highest for P, and high transfer efficiencies between trophic levels of P and N also indicated an overall shortage of these nutrients when compared to C. Heterotrophs were sometimes, but not always, limited by the same nutrient as the primary producers. Mangrove trees and the primary tree consumers were P limited, whereas the invertebrates consuming leaf litter and detritus were N limited. Most compartments were limited by P or N (not by C), and the relative depletion rate of food sources was fastest for P. P transfers thus constituted a bottleneck of nutrient transfer on Twin Cays. This is the first comprehensive ecosystem study of nutrient transfers in a mangrove ecosystem, illustrating some mechanisms (e.g. recycling rates, transfer efficiencies) which oligotrophic systems use in order to build up biomass and food webs spanning various trophic levels.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Variable nutrient stoichiometry (carbon:nitrogen:phosphorus) across trophic levels determines community and ecosystem properties in an oligotrophic mangrove system
Series title Oecologia
DOI 10.1007/s00442-015-3379-2
Volume 179
Issue 3
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) National Wetlands Research Center
Description 14 p.
First page 863
Last page 876
Country Belize
City Twin Cays
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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