VARIATIONS OF SOIL NUTRIENT AND ORGANIC MATTER CONTENT IN A SUBTROPICAL MANGROVE ECOSYSTEM

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Abstract

Variations of soil nutrient and organic matter content along tidal gradients of a small mangrove forest in Hong Kong were investigated. Effects of sampling months on nutrient status were also analysed. Two transects, A and B, were established perpendicular to the shoreline. Transect A transverse a wider band of vegetation and was less disturbed by human activities; while Transect B was close to human settlement and all mangrove plants were more frequently flooded by incoming and outgoing tides. Surface soils at 5 and 10 m intervals along Transects A and B, respectively, were collected in December 1989, March 1990, July 1990 and September 1990. Concentrations of soil organic matter, total and extractable nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium were high in landward sites and decreased gradually along tidal gradients; while pH and salinity increased with distance from landward to seaward sites. These trends along tidal gradients indicate the importance of tidal frequency and amplitude on soil properties. Significant differences in soil properties were also found between two transects. Transect A had significantly higher organic matter and nutrient content than Transect B. In both transects, there were sites with extraordinarily high levels of nutrients and organic matter (5–10 times higher than the average values) suggesting local contamination. Most of these contaminated sites were located at the landward edges. Positive correlations between organic matter, N, P and K content were found suggesting that these nutrients were from similar input sources. Variations along tidal gradients and local contaminated sites at the landward edges suggest that human discharges, litter deposition and surface runoff were major nutrient inputs. In both transects, no definite seasonal periodicity was found and temporal variations existed in a more random manner than variations along tidal gradients.

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