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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 482 - Feature article
The impacts of anthropogenic changes in land cover on the export of nutrients to tropical estuaries are attenuated by mangroves (inset). Photos: I. Valiela

Valiela I, Giblin A, Barth-Jensen C, Harris C, Stone T, Fox S, Crusius J


Nutrient gradients in Panamanian estuaries: effects of watershed deforestation, rainfall, upwelling, and within-estuary transformations


Deforestation decreases the discharge of inorganic nitrogen (DIN) to stream headwaters in Panama. The effect of land cover is erased in estuaries, however, as fresh water mixes with seawater that is very poor in nutrients. Land-derived nitrate is subject to denitrification, and regeneration within mangrove sediments adds ammonium to the water column of tropical estuaries. In spite of within-mangrove interception, these estuaries export significant amounts of DIN to the nutrient-poor coastal waters. Mangrove estuaries thus attenuate variability in terrestrial nutrient discharges that results from changes in land cover, while simultaneously allowing significant exports of DIN (and phosphate) to coastal waters.


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