, Volume 87, Issue 2, pp 181–198 | Cite as

Porewater biogeochemistry and soil metabolism in dwarf red mangrove habitats (Twin Cays, Belize)

  • Rosalynn Y. Lee
  • William P. Porubsky
  • Ilka C. Feller
  • Karen L. McKee
  • Samantha B. Joye
Synthesis and Emerging Ideas


Seasonal variability in biogeochemical signatures was used to elucidate the dominant pathways of soil microbial metabolism and elemental cycling in an oligotrophic mangrove system. Three interior dwarf mangrove habitats (Twin Cays, Belize) where surface soils were overlain by microbial mats were sampled during wet and dry periods of the year. Porewater equilibration meters and standard biogeochemical methods provided steady-state porewater profiles of pH, chloride, sulfate, sulfide, ammonium, nitrate/nitrite, phosphate, dissolved organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, reduced iron and manganese, dissolved inorganic carbon, methane and nitrous oxide. During the wet season, the salinity of overlying pond water and shallow porewaters decreased. Increased rainwater infiltration through soils combined with higher tidal heights appeared to result in increased organic carbon inventories and more reducing soil porewaters. During the dry season, evaporation increased both surface water and porewater salinities, while lower tidal heights resulted in less reduced soil porewaters. Rainfall strongly influenced inventories of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen, possibly due to more rapid decay of mangrove litter during the wet season. During both times of year, high concentrations of reduced metabolites accumulated at depth, indicating substantial rates of organic matter mineralization coupled primarily to sulfate reduction. Nitrous oxide and methane concentrations were supersaturated indicating considerable rates of nitrification and/or incomplete denitrification and methanogenesis, respectively. More reducing soil conditions during the wet season promoted the production of reduced manganese. Contemporaneous activity of sulfate reduction and methanogenesis was likely fueled by the presence of noncompetitive substrates. The findings indicate that these interior dwarf areas are unique sites of nutrient and energy regeneration and may be critical to the overall persistence and productivity of mangrove-dominated islands in oligotrophic settings.


Dwarf mangrove Nutrients Porewater Redox metabolites Sulfate reduction Methanogenesis 



We thank the Smithsonian Institution’s Carrie Bow Cay Field Station support staff, Mike Carpenter, and Klaus Rützler for logistical assistance. This work was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Biocomplexity in the Environment Program (DEB grant numbers 0002796 to S. B. J., 9981535 to I. C. F. and 9981483 to K. L. M.). We thank N. Weston, K. Weeks, and two anonymous reviewers for providing comments that significantly improved this paper. This is contribution number 766 of the Smithsonian Institution’s Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystems (CCRE) Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosalynn Y. Lee
    • 1
    • 2
  • William P. Porubsky
    • 1
  • Ilka C. Feller
    • 3
  • Karen L. McKee
    • 4
  • Samantha B. Joye
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Marine and Coastal SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewaterUSA
  4. 4.National Wetlands Research CenterU.S. Geological SurveyLayfayetteUSA

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