Linking water use and nutrient accumulation in tree island upland hammock plant communities in the Everglades National Park, USA

Xin Wang, Leonel O. Sternberg, Michael S. Ross, Victor C. Engel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The tree island hammock communities in the Florida Everglades provide one of many examples of self-organized wetland landscape. However, little is understood about why these elevated tree island communities have higher nutrient concentration than the surrounding freshwater marshes. Here we used stable isotopes and elemental analysis to compare dry season water limitation and soil and foliar nutrient status in upland hammock communities of 18 different tree islands located in the Shark River Slough and adjacent prairie landscapes. We observed that prairie tree islands, having a shorter hydroperiod, suffer greater water deficits during the dry season than slough tree islands by examining shifts in foliar δ13C values. We also found that prairie tree islands have lower soil total phosphorus concentration and higher foliar N/P ratio than slough tree islands. Foliar δ15N values, which often increase with greater P availability, was also found to be lower in prairie tree islands than in slough tree islands. Both the elemental N and P and foliar δ15N results indicate that the upland hammock plant communities in slough tree islands have higher amount of P available than those in prairie tree islands. Our findings are consistent with the transpiration driven nutrient harvesting chemohydrodynamic model. The water limited prairie tree islands hypothetically transpire less and harvest less P from the surrounding marshes than slough tree islands during the dry season. These findings suggest that hydroperiod is important to nutrient accumulation of tree island habitats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-146
Number of pages14
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Everglades tree islands
  • Hydroperiod
  • Nutrient harvesting
  • Phosphorus
  • Stable isotope
  • Water limitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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