, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 321–327 | Cite as

Nutrient and salt relations of Pterocarpus officinalis L. in coastal wetlands of the Caribbean: assessment through leaf and soil analyses

  • Ernesto MedinaEmail author
  • Elvira Cuevas
  • Ariel Lugo
Original Paper


Pterocarpus officinalis L. is a dominant tree of freshwater coastal wetlands in the Caribbean and the Guiana regions. It is frequently associated with mangroves in areas with high rainfall and/or surface run-off. We hypothesized that P. officinalis is a freshwater swamp species that when occurring in association with mangroves occupies low-salinity soil microsites, or alternatively that it possesses mechanisms preventing accumulation of salt in photosynthetic tissues. To test this we compared the mineral composition of soils and leaves of several species in two Pterocarpus forests in Puerto Rico associated with coastal mangroves, Sabana Seca and Punta Viento. Results indicate that (1) Sabana Seca has low soil salinity values even in the P. officinalis and Laguncularia racemosa mixed zone. In Punta Viento, salinity in the mixed zone was higher than in the Pterocarpus forest, but much lower than in the mangrove area; (2) In both forests, leaves of P. officinalis showed much lower Na concentrations than mangrove species. The K/Na ratios were 16–20 times higher in P. officinalis, indicating preferential absorption of K against Na. The mangrove fern (Acrostichum aureum) growing side by side with P. officinalis and L. racemosa in Punta Viento also revealed high Na exclusion capacity. We found an asymmetric distribution of cations in the blade and rachis of the P. officinalis compound leaves in both sites. The rachis accumulates more Na and Ca, but less Mg than the leaf blade. This sequestration of Na in the rachis prevents salt damage of photosynthetic tissue in the leaf blade.


Pterocarpus officinalis Mangroves Caribbean Salt tolerance Cation compartmentation 



M.J. Sánchez, E. López, and M. Santiago of the USDA Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry chemistry laboratory conducted the chemical analyses of leaf and soil samples. The reviewers of Trees helped substantially to improve a previous version of this paper.


  1. Albert R (1982) Halophyten. In: Kinzel H (ed) Pflanzenökologie und Mineralstoffwechsel. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart, pp 33–215Google Scholar
  2. Álvarez-Lopez M (1990) Ecology of Pterocarpus officinalis forested wetlands in Puerto Rico. In: Lugo AE, Brinson M, Brown S (eds) Ecosystem of the World 15. Forested wetlands. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 251–265Google Scholar
  3. Bacon P (1990) Ecology and management of swamp forests in the Guianas and Caribbean region. In: Lugo AE, Brinson M, Brown S (eds) Ecosystem of the World 15. Forested wetlands. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 213–250Google Scholar
  4. Bonhême I, Imbert D, Rousteau A, Saur E (1998) La forêt marécageuse à Pterocarpus officinalis. Sa situation en Guadeloupe. Bois For Trop 257:1–10Google Scholar
  5. Breckle S-W (2002) Salinity, halophytes and salt affected natural ecosystems. In: Läuchli A, Lüttge U (eds) Salinity: environment—plants—molecules. Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands, pp 53–77Google Scholar
  6. Clark DB, Palmer MW, Clark DA (1999) Edaphic factors and the landscape-scale distributions of tropical rain forest trees. Ecology 80:2662–2675CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eusse AM, Aide TM (1999) Patterns of litter production across a salinity gradient in a Pterocarpus officinalis tropical wetland. Plant Ecol 145:307–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Imbert D, Bonhême I, Saur E, Bouchon C (2000) Floristics and structure of Pterocarpus officinalis swamp forest in Guadeloupe, Lesser Antilles. J Trop Ecol 16:55–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Jacoby B (1964) Function of bean roots and stems in sodium retention. Plant Physiol 39:445–449PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Jeschke WD, Wolf O (1988) Effect of NaCl salinity on growth, development, ion distribution, and ion translocation in castor bean (Ricinus communis L.). J Plant Physiol 132:45–53Google Scholar
  11. Lugo AE (1999) Mangrove ecosystem research with emphasis on nutrient cycling. In: Gopal B, Pathak PS, Saxena KG (eds) Ecology today: an anthology of contemporary ecological research. International Scientific Publications, New Delhi, pp 279–305Google Scholar
  12. Luh Huang CY, Schulte EE (1985) Digestion of plant tissue for analysis by ICP emission spectroscopy. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 16:943–958CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Medina E, Cuevas E, Popp M, Lugo AE (1990) Soil salinity, sun exposure, and growth of Acrostichum aureum, the mangrove fern. Bot Gaz 151:41–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Popp M (1984) Chemical composition of Australian mangroves. I. Inorganic ions and organic acids. Zeitschr Pflanzenphysiol 113:395–409Google Scholar
  15. Popp M (1995) Salt resistance in herbaceous halophytes and mangroves. Prog Bot 56:416–428Google Scholar
  16. Portnoy JW, Giblin AE (1997) Effects of historic tidal restrictions on salt marsh sedimentary chemistry. Biogeochemistry 36:275–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Rhodes D, Nadolska-Orczyk A, Rich PJ (2002) Salinity, osmolytes and compatible solutes. In: Läuchli A, Lüttge U (eds) Salinity: environment—plants—molecules. Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands, pp 181–204Google Scholar
  18. Rivera-Ocasio E, Aide TM, McMillan WO (2002) Patterns of genetic diversity and biogeographical history of the tropical wetland tree, Pterocarpus officinalis (Jacq.), in the Caribbean basin. Mol Ecol 11:675–683PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Saur E, Bonhême I, Nygren P, Imbert P (1998) Nodulation of Pterocarpus officinalis in the swamp forests of Guadeloupe (Lesser Antilles). J Trop Ecol 14:761–770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Tomlinson PB (1986) The botany of mangroves. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. Waisel Y (1972) Biology of halophytes. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  22. Warwick NWM, Halloran GM (1991) Variation in salinity tolerance and ion uptake in accessions of brown beetle grass [Diplachne fusca (L.) Beauv.]. New Phytol 119:161–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de EcologíaIVICCaracasVenezuela
  2. 2.International Institute of Tropical ForestryUSDA Forest ServiceRío PiedrasUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of Puerto RicoRío PiedrasUSA

Personalised recommendations