, Volume 104, Issue 1–3, pp 133–146 | Cite as

Linking water use and nutrient accumulation in tree island upland hammock plant communities in the Everglades National Park, USA

  • Xin Wang
  • Leonel O. Sternberg
  • Michael S. Ross
  • Victor C. Engel


The tree island hammock communities in the Florida Everglades provide one of many examples of self-organized wetland landscape. However, little is understood about why these elevated tree island communities have higher nutrient concentration than the surrounding freshwater marshes. Here we used stable isotopes and elemental analysis to compare dry season water limitation and soil and foliar nutrient status in upland hammock communities of 18 different tree islands located in the Shark River Slough and adjacent prairie landscapes. We observed that prairie tree islands, having a shorter hydroperiod, suffer greater water deficits during the dry season than slough tree islands by examining shifts in foliar δ13C values. We also found that prairie tree islands have lower soil total phosphorus concentration and higher foliar N/P ratio than slough tree islands. Foliar δ15N values, which often increase with greater P availability, was also found to be lower in prairie tree islands than in slough tree islands. Both the elemental N and P and foliar δ15N results indicate that the upland hammock plant communities in slough tree islands have higher amount of P available than those in prairie tree islands. Our findings are consistent with the transpiration driven nutrient harvesting chemohydrodynamic model. The water limited prairie tree islands hypothetically transpire less and harvest less P from the surrounding marshes than slough tree islands during the dry season. These findings suggest that hydroperiod is important to nutrient accumulation of tree island habitats.


Everglades tree islands Hydroperiod Nutrient harvesting Phosphorus Stable isotope Water limitation 



We Thank Amartya Saha, Patrick Ellsworth, Patricia Ellsworth, Pablo Ruiz, Brooke Shamblin, Daniel Gomez, Mike Klein, and Faith McDaniel for their assistance with field and lab work. Thanks to Dr. David Janos for advice on writing techniques. This research was supported by funds from the South Florida Water Management District and the Everglades Foundation Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xin Wang
    • 1
  • Leonel O. Sternberg
    • 1
  • Michael S. Ross
    • 2
  • Victor C. Engel
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  2. 2.Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  3. 3.South Florida Natural Resources CenterEverglades National ParkHomesteadUSA

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