Water utilization of tropical hardwood hammocks of the Lower Florida Keys

Summary

Predawn water potential of representative plant species, together with stable isotope composition of stem water and potential water sources were investigated in four low-elevation tropical hardwood hammocks in the Lower Florida Keys, during a one year period. Hammock species had the lowest water potentials when soil water content was low and/or soil salinity was high, but differences in groundwater salinity had no effect on the water potential. Comparison of D/H ratio of plant stem water with soil and ground water corroborates the conclusion that they are primarily utilizing soil water and not groundwater. Thus, tropical hardwood hammocks are buffered from saline groundwater, and are able to thrive in areas where groundwater salinity is as high as 25‰. The effect of sea level rise on these forests may depend more on changes in the frequency of tidal inundation of the soil surface than on changes in groundwater salinity.

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Ish-Shalom, N., Sternberg, L.d.S.L., Ross, M. et al. Water utilization of tropical hardwood hammocks of the Lower Florida Keys. Oecologia 92, 108–112 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00317270

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Key words

  • Tropical hardwood hammock
  • Salinity
  • Stable isotope ratio
  • Water relations
  • Groundwater