Linking water sources with foliar nutrient status in upland plant communities in the Everglades National Park, USA

Amartya K. Saha, Leonel Da Silviera Lobo O'Reilly Sternberg, Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Plant communities within an ecosystem can vary in water source usage and nutrient availabilities, thus permitting community coexistence and diversity. We investigated the differences in water source utilization in two ecologically important upland plant communities: tropical hardwood hammocks and pine rocklands in the predominantly flooded Everglades ecosystem. We then linked these differences with their foliar nutrient levels and photosynthetic performance as measured by δ13C abundance. Based on a comparison of δ18O of plant stem waters with those of potential water sources (nutrient-poor groundwater and nutrient-rich water in organic litter referred to as soilwater), we observed that during the wet season hammock plants relied on soilwater while in the dry season they relied on groundwater. A similar seasonal shift was observed in pineland plants, however, groundwater constituted the major part of water uptake throughout the year except for late wet season. Consistent with the nutrient concentration of different water sources used in the two communities, hammocks had a greater annual mean foliar nitrogen and phosphorus concentration at the community level over pinelands as well as a higher leaf area index. High foliar N concentration in hammock plants was associated with eventual stomatal limitation of photosynthesis. Hammock species being intolerant of flooded soils are restricted to water uptake in the shallow unsaturated soil layer in the wet season, yet access the lowered groundwater table in the dry season. This dependence on a relatively narrow annual range of water table levels should be considered in South Florida water management and Everglades restoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-54
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2009


  • Ecohydrology
  • Everglades
  • Flood-intolerant vegetation
  • Foliar nutrients
  • Hardwood hammocks
  • Pine rocklands
  • Stable isotopes
  • Water sources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Ecology


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