Effects of Nutrient-Limitation on Disturbance Recovery in Experimental Mangrove Wetlands
Coastal wetlands are exposed to high-energy storms that influence plant and soil structure. To understand how nutrient availability interacts with storm-induced plant stress, we tested how defoliation interacts with nutrient enrichment to affect carbon (C) and nutrient (nitrogen, N; phosphorus, P) cycling and storage within soils and plants. In outdoor experimental mesocosms, we defoliated red mangrove saplings (Rhizophora mangle), added 30 g of inorganic P to peat soils, and quantified plant [elemental stoichiometry (C:N, C:P, N:P), leaf count, and above- and below- ground biomass] and soil responses [C:N, C:P, N:P, litter breakdown rate (k), soil CO2 efflux] during a 42-d recovery period. Mangroves rapidly regrew all removed leaves and recovered nearly 30% of leaf biomass. Mangrove biomass %P increased by 50% with added P; however, soil stoichiometry remained unchanged. Defoliation reduced Soil CO2 efflux by 40% and root litter k by 30%. Phosphorus was quickly incorporated into mangrove biomass and stimulated nighttime soil CO2 efflux. This work highlights the importance of testing interactions of nutrient availability and plant stress on plant and soil biogeochemical cycling and suggests that plants quickly incorporate available nutrients into biomass and defoliation can lead to reduced soil C losses.
KeywordsPeat Nutrients Coastal storms Climate change Hurricanes
We thank S. Charles, L. Marazzi, D. Mills, B. Wilson, and L. Zhai for providing extensive feedback during the development of the manuscript. Funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) award (DBI-1237517) to the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research Program. We thank A. Downey-Wall, I. Giles, the Everglades Section of the South Florida Water Management District and Everglades National Park, for providing facilities and support during this research. This publication is contribution number 891 for the Southeast Environmental Research Center.
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