, Volume 569, Issue 1, pp 311-324

Evaluating the relative contributions of hydroperiod and soil fertility on growth of south Florida mangroves

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Abstract

Low and high water periods create contrasting challenges for trees inhabiting periodically flooded wetlands. Low to moderate flood durations and frequencies may bring nutrient subsidies, while greater hydroperiods can be energetically stressful because of oxygen deficiency. We tested the hypothesis that hydroperiod affects the growth of mangrove seedlings and saplings in a greenhouse experiment by varying flood duration while keeping salinity and soil fertility constant. We measured the growth of mangrove trees along a hydroperiod gradient over a two-year period by tracking fine-scale diameter increment. Greenhouse growth studies indicated that under a full range of annual flood durations (0–8760 h/year), hydroperiod alone exerted a significant influence on growth for one species, Laguncularia racemosa, when flooding was imposed for two growing seasons. Field evaluations, on the other hand, indicated that increased flood duration may provide nutrient subsidies for tree growth. Diameter growth was related curvilinearly to site hydroperiod, including flood duration and frequency, as well as to salinity and soil fertility. An analysis of soil physico-chemical parameters suggests that phosphorus fertility, which was also linked directly to hydroperiod, is likely to influence growth on south Florida mangrove sites. The physical removal of phosphorus by greater flood frequencies from upland sources and/or addition of phosphorus from tidal flooding balanced against increased soil aeration and reduced water deficits may be an extremely important growth determinant for south Florida mangroves.