Animal-Plant Interaction
Principal Investigator

Effects of Nutrient Availability on Ecological Processes in Mangrove Forests at Bocas del Toro, Panama

Mangroves in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Tropical and subtropical mangroves support adjacent marine communities and ecosystems, including seagrass beds and coral reefs. However, little is known about the intra-wetland processes that regulate those interactions and how they are affected when the coastal zone is altered by eutrophication.

The objectives of this study are to determine the patterns of nutrient limitation across mangrove forests in Bocas del Toro and the effects of nutrient availability of plant growth, within-plant nutrient conservation mechanisms, litter turnover rates, soil chemistry, and primary consumption.
This study is part of our effort to understand general patterns of nutrient availability in mangrove ecosystems. Our goals are to compare plant growth, photosynthesis, nutrient cycling processes, and animal-plant interactions in response to nutrient enrichment in mangrove forests.

We propose to investigate patterns of above- and below-ground growth, faunal composition and abundance, herbivory patterns, soil chemistry, and nutrients cycling that occur in the ecotones connecting the open water mangrove forests with the interior mangrove forests at Bocas del Toro. Data from this experiment will be compared to other ongoing fertilization experiments in mangrove forests elsewhere in the Neotropics and in Australia.

These experiments are fundamental to understanding the role of mangroves in absorbing and capturing nutrients in eutrophying systems and the impact of nutrient enrichment on these systems.