Nutrient subsidies delivered by seabirds to mangrove islands
Embargoed until: 2020-04-09
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In nutrient-poor landscapes, external nutrient subsidies are important for sustaining local production. Seabirds can transport marine nutrients in the form of guano to terrestrial and coastal ecosystems where they can relieve nutrient limitation. We assessed whether seabirds provide nutrient subsidies to mangrove islands that are strongly limited by phosphorus (P) in the Yucatan Peninsula. Our hypotheses were: (1) seabirds transport nutrients to mangrove islands, (2) mangroves use marine-derived nutrients and (3) nutrient inputs are higher during the nesting season. We chose 6 mangrove islands within a coastal lagoon: 2 with no birds, 2 with temporary birds and 2 with permanent bird colonies. On each, we measured forest structure and soil characteristics (P, pH, salinity and organic matter) for 3 seasons (dry, wet and trade wind season). We collected leaves (green and senescent) to determine P content and resorption efficiency as a measurement of nutrient limitation. Green leaves were also sampled for δ13C and δ15N to determine nutrient origin. Results show that islands with permanent bird colonies have the highest soil nutrients, which are used by the mangrove trees and relieve some of their nutrient limitation. Nutrient inputs were homogenously distributed through the sediment column, although a decrease in P and an increase in the N:P ratio in the first 20 cm suggests bacterial consumption. Bird nutrient inputs are seasonal, with highest inputs during the nesting season. This study shows an example in which marine-derived nutrients could be important for production of coastal mangrove islands.
Marine Ecology Progress Series
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Biological Sciences not elsewhere classified