FCE LTER Journal Articles


Patterns of phosphorus, nitrogen and δ15N along a peat development gradient in a coastal mire, Panama


Differentiation of limiting nutrients within small spatial scales has been observed in coastal mangrove forests, but research on other tropical peatlands suggests it is a more widespread phenomenon. In the Changuinola mire of coastal Panama, oligotrophy was hypothesized to increase along a gradient of peat development (peat doming). Nutrient and carbon concentration of leaf tissue, soil, and soil porewater were characterised over a successive sequence of plant communities along the gradient. Soil phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) concentrations decreased from 1200 μg P g−1 and 27 mg N g−1 to 377 μg P g−1 and 22 mg N g−1 within 2.7 km into the mire interior. These changes coincided with an increase in soil and average leaf N:P molar ratios from 52–128 and 24–41, respectively. Soil P was strongly related to leaf P and soil N:P to foliar N:P. There was a wide range in δ15N values for canopy (4.0 to −9.4‰), Campnosperma panamense (4.0 to −7.8‰) and understorey (4.8 to −3.1‰) species. Foliar δ15N values of canopy species were strongly related to soil N:P, soil P and leaf P. The depleted foliar δ15N values appeared to be an effect of both the N atmospheric source and P limitation. Here, P limitation is likely associated with ombrotrophic conditions that developed as hydrologic inputs became dominated by precipitation.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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