We hypothesized that salinity and light interactively affect mangroves, such that net photosynthesis, growth, and survivorship rates increase more with increase in light availability at low than high salinity. Using greenhouse and field experiments, we determined that net photosynthesis, growth rates, and size increased more with light at low than high salinity. At high salinity, the ratio of leaf respiration to assimilation increased fourfold, suggesting that salinity may have contributed to declines in net photosynthesis. Stomatal conductance, leaf-level transpiration, and internal CO2 concentrations were lower at high salinity. Ratios of root mass to leaf mass were higher at high salinity. Stomatal limitations and increased respiratory costs may explain why at high salinity, the seedlings did not respond to increased light availability with increased net photosynthesis. Increased root mass relative to leaf mass suggests that at high salinity, either water or nutrient limitations may have prevented the seedlings from increasing growth with increasing light availability. At both low- and high-salinity zones in the field, seedling survivorship increased with light availability, and the effect of light was stronger at low salinity. However, at low light, survivorship was higher at high than low salinity, indicating that there may be a trade-off between survivorship and growth. The interactive effects observed in the greenhouse were robust in the field, despite the presence of other factors in the field such as inundation and nutrient gradients and herbivory. This study provides a robust test of the hypothesis that salinity and light interactively effect mangrove seedling performance.
- Gas exchange
- Salinity tolerance