Plant invasion affects vegetation structure and sediment nitrogen stocks in subtropical mangroves

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Plant invasion can primarily affect the structure and functioning of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Although there is evidence that plant invasion can modify organic matter dynamics in mangroves, it is uncertain whether and to which extent these changes can affect carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics in the sediment-plant system. Here, we measured: (i) the structure of native vegetation and C and N in the sediment-plant system in subtropical mangroves subjected to aquatic macrophytes invasion in southeastern Brazil. We answered the following questions: i) Do invaded mangroves differ in aboveground biomass compared to non-invaded mangroves?; ii) Are there C4 macrophytes in these sites? iii) What are the C and N stocks in sediment of invaded mangroves? We quantified C and N concentrations and the isotopic signature of such elements (δ13C and δ15N) in the sediment-plant system, the C and N stocks in the sediment (0–20 cm depth), and mangrove aboveground biomass. Mangrove aboveground biomass was lower at invaded compared to non-invaded sites reflecting the species displacement in invaded sites. The sediment at invaded mangroves did not significantly contribute to C4 sources because of the large predominance of both mangrove and invasive C3 plants. While sediment C stocks were similar among study sites (∼47 Mg ha−1), N stocks were lower at invaded (2.7 Mg ha−1) comparing to non-invaded (3.2 Mg ha−1) mangroves. The lower N stocks at invaded sites can reflect the higher leaf N concentrations and lower C:N ratios of invasive plants compared to mangroves. Thus, the effects of macrophytes invasion in subtropical mangroves are more apparent for vegetation structure and N stocks. C stocks alteration is expected the be detectable in the future.




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Marine Environmental Research, v. 172.

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