FCE LTER Journal Articles


Patterns of Root Dynamics in Mangrove Forests Along Environmental Gradients in the Florida Coastal Everglades, USA


Patterns of mangrove vegetation in two distinct basins of Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE), Shark River estuary and Taylor River Slough, represent unique opportunities to test hypotheses that root dynamics respond to gradients of resources, regulators, and hydroperiod. We propose that soil total phosphorus (P) gradients in these two coastal basins of FCE cause specific patterns in belowground biomass allocation and net primary productivity that facilitate nutrient acquisition, but also minimize stress from regulators and hydroperiod in flooded soil conditions. Shark River basin has higher P and tidal hydrology with riverine mangroves, in contrast to scrub mangroves of Taylor basin with more permanent flooding and lower P across the coastal landscape. Belowground biomass (0–90 cm) of mangrove sites in Shark River and Taylor River basins ranged from 2317 to 4673 g m-2, with the highest contribution (62–85%) of roots in the shallow root zone (0–45 cm) compared to the deeper root zone (45–90 cm). Total root productivity did not vary significantly among sites and ranged from 407 to 643 g m-2 y-1. Root production in the shallow root zone accounted for 57–78% of total production. Root turnover rates ranged from 0.04 to 0.60 y-1 and consistently decreased as the root size class distribution increased from fine to coarse roots, indicating differences in root longevity. Fine root biomass was negatively correlated with soil P density and frequency of inundation, whereas fine root turnover decreased with increasing soil N:P ratios. Lower P availability in Taylor River basin relative to Shark River basin, along with higher regulator and hydroperiod stress, confirms our hypothesis that interactions of stress from resource limitation and long duration of hydroperiod account for higher fine root biomass along with lower fine root production and turnover. Because fine root production and organic matter accumulation are the primary processes controlling soil formation and accretion in scrub mangrove forests, root dynamics in the P-limited carbonate ecosystem of south Florida have a major controlling role as to how mangroves respond to future impacts of sealevel rise.


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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