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Title: Hurricanes fertilize mangrove forests in the Gulf of Mexico (Florida Everglades, USA)

Hurricanes are recurring high-energy disturbances in coastal regions that change community structure and function of mangrove wetlands. However, most of the studies assessing hurricane impacts on mangroves have focused on negative effects without considering the positive influence of hurricane-induced sediment deposition and associated nutrient fertilization on mangrove productivity and resilience. Here, we quantified how Hurricane Irma influenced soil nutrient pools, vertical accretion, and plant phosphorus (P) uptake after its passage across the Florida Coastal Everglades in September 2017. Vertical accretion from Irma’s deposits was 6.7 to 14.4 times greater than the long-term (100 y) annual accretion rate (0.27 ± 0.04 cm y−1). Storm deposits extended up to 10-km inland from the Gulf of Mexico. Total P (TP) inputs were highest at the mouth of estuaries, with P concentration double that of underlying surface (top 10 cm) soils (0.19 ± 0.02 mg cm−3). This P deposition contributed 49 to 98% to the soil nutrient pool. As a result, all mangrove species showed a significant increase in litter foliar TP and soil porewater inorganic P concentrations in early 2018, 3 mo after Irma’s impact, thus underscoring the interspecies differences in nutrient uptake. Mean TP loading rates were five times greater in southwestern (94 ± 13 kg ha−1d−1) mangrove-dominated estuaries compared to the southeastern region, highlighting the positive role of hurricanes as a natural fertilization mechanism influencing forest productivity. P-rich, mineral sediments deposited by hurricanes create legacies that facilitate rapid forest recovery, stimulation of peat soil development, and resilience to sea-level rise.

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Award ID(s):
1832229 1237517 1801244 0620409
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 4831-4841
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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