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Issue 7, 2003

Isotopic and molecular distributions of biochemicals from fresh and buried Rhizophoramangle leaves

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Rhizophora mangle L. (red mangrove) is the dominant species of mangrove in the Americas. At Twin Cays, Belize (BZ) red mangroves are present in a variety of stand structures (tall >5 m in height, transition ∼2–4 m and dwarf ∼1–1.5 m). These height differences are coupled with very different stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic values (mean tall δ13C = −28.3‰, δ15N = 0‰; mean tall δ13C = −25.3‰, δ15N = −10‰). To determine the utility of using these distinct isotopic compositions as ‘biomarkers’ for paleoenvironmental reconstruction of mangrove ecosystems and nutrient availability, we investigated the distribution and isotopic (δ13C and δ15N) composition of different biochemical fractions (water soluble compounds, free lipids, acid hydrolysable compounds, individual amino acids, and the residual un-extractable compounds) in fresh and preserved red mangrove leaves from dwarf and tall trees. The distribution of biochemicals are similar in dwarf and tall red mangrove leaves, suggesting that, regardless of stand structure, red mangroves use nutrients for biosynthesis and metabolism in a similar manner. However, the δ13C and δ15N of the bulk leaf, the biochemical fractions, and seven amino acids can be used to distinguish dwarf and tall trees at Twin Cays, BZ. The data support the theory that the fractionation of carbon and nitrogen occurs prior to or during uptake in dwarf and tall red mangrove trees. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes could, therefore, be powerful tools for predicting levels of nutrient limitation at Twin Cays. The δ13C and δ15N of biochemical fractions within preserved leaves, reflect sedimentary cycling and nitrogen immobilization. The δ15N of the immobilized fraction reveals the overlying stand structure at the time of leaf deposition. The isotopic composition of preserved mangrove leaves could yield significant information about changes in ecosystem dynamics, nutrient limitation and past stand structure in mangrove paleoecosystems.

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Publication details

The article was received on 29 Jul 2003, accepted on 24 Nov 2003 and first published on 05 Dec 2003

Article type: Paper
Citation: Geochem. Trans., 2003,4, 38-46

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