Nitrogen Enrichment Accelerates Mangrove Range Expansion in the Temperate–Tropical Ecotone
Climate change and nutrient enrichment are two phenomena impacting coastal ecosystems. In coastal wetlands, mangroves in temperate–tropical ecotones are encroaching on adjacent saltmarshes, a pattern that is primarily attributed to warmer winter temperatures. Climate change is also expected to increase the vulnerability of coastal wetlands to eutrophication, and increases in nutrient availability may further mediate the rate of mangrove expansion. We investigated the consequences of nutrient enrichment on coastal wetlands in the mangrove–saltmarsh ecotone near the temperate edge of mangrove distribution along the northeast coast of Florida. We tested the hypothesis that nutrient enrichment enhances the ongoing, climate-driven expansion of mangroves into areas historically dominated by saltmarshes by increasing mangrove growth and cover, allowing them to outcompete and overgrow adjacent saltmarsh plants. We manipulated nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) availability and measured the effects on growth, cover, diversity, leaf traits, and nutrient dynamics of Avicennia germinans. We found that A. germinans shrubs growing in the saltmarsh–mangrove ecotone in northern Florida grew taller, increased their canopies, and had higher reproductive output when enriched with N compared to control plants and P-enriched plants. Nutrient enrichment did not alter Sarcocornia perennis growth and increased Batis maritima height but did not alter density or biomass. Nitrogen addition caused an increase in A. germinans cover and decrease in B. maritima cover and Simpson’s index of diversity, suggesting that N enrichment, an ongoing phenomenon, can hasten the invasion of mangroves into saltmarshes by favoring mangrove growth and reproduction without significantly enhancing saltmarsh plant growth.
KeywordsPropagules saltmarsh range expansion eutrophication Avicennia germinans biomass allocation leaf traits woody encroachment
This project was supported by funding from NSF Macrosystems Award Number 1065821 and NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology Award Number 1308565.
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