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Nutrient Cycling in Mangrove Ecosystem: A Brief Overview

Gurmeet Singh1 , AL.Ramanathan2 and M. Bala Krishna Prasad3


School of Environmental Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi

Email:
1.

envioguru@yahoo.co.in

2.

alr0400@mail.jnu.ac.in

3.

prasadmbk@yahoo.co.inn

ABSTRACT
Mangrove forests are highly productive coastal ecosystems confined to the intertidal
zons. They are considered the major conduits for tidal exchange of dissolved and
particulate matter between the forest environment and adjacent coastal waters as well
as net exporters of organic matter and nutrients to the ocean, caused by biological and
physical processes within the forest ecosystem. Nitrogen Phosphorus and sulfur are
some of the major macronutrient essential for the various biological activities, hence
an effort has been made in present paper to explain their behavior in the mangrove
ecosystem. A brief review of the behavior of heavy metal in the mangrove forest as
well as the capability of scavenging heavy metals has been attempted in present
paper.

Key Words: Mangrove, nutrient cycling , nitrogen , phosphorus, heavy metals

INTRODUCTION
Mangroves are intertidal forest ecosystems in sheltered saline to brackish
environments. They are among the most productive coastal ecosystems in the world,
confined to the tropics and subtropics, which dominate approximately 75% of the
worlds coastline between 25o N and 25o S and are estimated to cover an area of 1.7 to
2.0 X 105 Km2 (Borges et al, 2003). Under natural growing conditions mangrove trees
are well adapted to both flooding and saline water. They are regarded not only as
sinks of sediment and nutrients, but also as sources of organic matter of low nutrient
quality (Boto, 1992). Through out welling of leaf litter and dissolved organic matter,
these generally productive wetlands act as detritus sources to the adjacent oligotrophic
marine food webs, supporting valuable estuarine and coastal fisheries (Lee, 1995) The
mangrove sediments are characterized by high organic matter and ammonia contents
but low oxygen content (Morell and Corredor 1993) and, hence, contributions of
nutrients, organic matter and detritus to the nearby coastal ecosystem are high.

The mangrove ecosystem as a whole is net autotrophic, but the water column
and the sediment are largely net heterotrophic, due to three processes (Jennerjahn and
Ittekkot, 2002).:
1. Aquatic primary production is limited by high turbidity in the water column as
well as due to canopy shadow and large changes in salinity;
2. Water column and sediments receive important quantities of leaf and wood
litter from the overlying canopy;
3. Export of labile organic carbon from mangroves to adjacent aquatic systems,
although variable from one site to another, can be low

Recent biogeochemical studies focused on tidal exchange between wetland


vegetation and coastal waters as well as nutrient recycling through sediment-water
interface. Most studies indicate some net export of detritus to the sea from salt
marshes (Nixon 1980; Dame and others 1986) and mangrove forests (Boto and Bunt
1981; Flores-Vergudo and others 1987; Wolanski 1995; Wafar et al, 1997).

NUTRIENT CYCLING IN MANGROVES


Mangrove creeks are generally considered the major conduits for tidal
exchange of dissolved and particulate matter between the forest environment and
adjacent coastal waters; (Rivera - Monroy et al., 1995). Most studies support the
contention that mangrove forests are net exporters of organic matter and nutrients to
the ocean, caused by biological and physical processes within the forest ecosystem
(Robertson, 1986; Dittmer & Lara, 2001). Export of dissolved inorganic nutrients by
tidal water in mangrove forests where the forest floor and creek bottoms are known to
be sinks of these compounds (Kristensen et al., 1995; Alongi, 1996) suggests that
other mechanisms than diffusive flux from sediments are also involved.
Figure 1
There are two interesting sources of nutrient in mangrove:
1.

Seepage of nutrient rich pore-water from creek banks during falling


tides, and

2.

Microbial mineralization of nutrient containing organic matter in the


creek water itself.
Although pore-water seepage from creek banks is a potential source of

nutrients, the volume of water passing through this pathway is generally orders of

magnitude smaller than the tidal transport. This source can therefore only affect the
chemistry of creek water when the interstitial nutrient concentrations in creek banks
are very high. Nevertheless, Lara & Dittmar (1999) suggested that most of the diurnal
nutrient oscillations in a Brazilian mangrove creek are due to dilution of nutrient-rich
pore-water seeping from creek banks by a variable and tidal driven volume of oceanic
water. However, Howes & Goehringer (1994) found that the nutrient levels in the
small amount of water seeping from creek banks in a New England salt marsh are
insufficient to affect the concentration of both dissolved organic carbon and inorganic
nutrients significantly in tidal waters.
Following processes have been shown to regulate the sediment-water
exchange of nutrients:
(1)

Molecular diffusion, caused by a nutrient gradient at the

sediment-water interface (Sweerts et al., 1991),


(2)

Faunal activity, such as ventilation or excretion (Blackburn and

Henriksen, 1983; Rutgers van der Loeff., 1984; Kristensen, 1985; 1988), and
(3)

Benthic algal uptake of nutrients (Rysgaard et al., 1995).

Benthic regeneration in transitional coastal environments is also the potential


source of nutrients to the overlying waters (Hartwig 1976; Zeitschel 1980;). An
intertidal flat region, where the sediment is regularly exposed and sufficient light
penetrates to the sediment, has been reported to have characteristically high levels of
benthic microalgal biomass and productivity (Colijn and de Jonge, 1984; Varela and
Penas, 1985). Photosynthetic processes can result in large diurnal changes and affect
the nutrient cycle near the sediment surface due to algal demand.
MANGROVE LITTER AND RELEASE OF NUTRIENT

Mangrove forests are highly productive ecosystems, with the net primary
production rates reaching as high as 2050 t C ha -1 year-1(Clough1992, 1997). Almost
one third of the net primary production can be lost as plant litter, such as leaves and
twigs, and up to half of this litter is exported from mangrove creeks to adjacent
coastal waters (Robertson et al., 1992). The export of such a large amount of organic
matter has a recognizable effect on the nutrition or biomass of consumer communities
in coastal waters (Odum and Heald, 1975; Alongi 1990), although their quantitative
relationship is still to be established (Daniel and Robertson, 1990; Robertson and
Blaber, 1992). The amount of leaves decomposing in and on the forest floor is a
function of input (litter fall and import from adjacent areas) and output/removal
(export by tides, decomposition and removal by leaf-eating crabs). Decomposition
rates increase with humidity, temperature, and oxygen availability and depend on the
composition of the organic matter (Benner and Hodson, 1985).The export of plant
litter or macro-particulate matter from mangrove creeks is beyond doubt, but no
general consensus has been reached for other materials, such as nutrients and
dissolved and particulate organic matter (Twilley, 1985; Boto and Wellington, 1988;
Wattayakorn et al., 1990; Moran et al., 1991; Simpson et al., 1997). The presence or
absence of freshwater inputs into mangrove creeks seems to be an important factor
affecting the direction and magnitude of material fluxes (Boto and Wellington, 1988;
Robertson et al., 1992). However, inconsistencies amongst the published data may
have resulted from the differences of other characteristics, such as tidal range,
geomorphology, soil chemistry and mangrove plant biomass and community
structure.

The decomposition of plant litter typically occurs in three, often-simultaneous


phases:
(1) Physical and biological fragmentation,
(2) Microbial oxidation of refractory components such as cellulose and lignin,
and
(3) Leaching of soluble components (Valiela et al., 1985).
Oxygen penetration and thus aerobic decomposition processes in coastal
marine sediments are usually limited to the upper few millimetres (Revsbech et al.,
1980; Howarth & Jrgensen, 1984). Below the oxic zone, decomposition of organic
matter occurs by a variety of anaerobic processes (e.g. Gambrell & Patrick, 1978;
Mackin & Swider, 1989). Bacterial respiration processes in marine sediments use O 2,
NO-3, MnO2, FeOOH, SO4-2 and CO2 as electron acceptors (Fenchel & Blackburn,
1979). Macrophyte detritus, e.g. from mangrove trees and saltmarsh grasses, typically
has high C:N and C:P ratios (e.g. Kristensen, 1990; Buchsbaum et al., 1991; Wafar et
al., 1997) compared with the demands of

decomposing bacteria (Fenchel &

Blackburn, 1979). Therefore a rapid immobilization of nutrients may occur during


decomposition in mangrove forest sediments (Boto et al., 1989; Alongi, 1991; 1994;
1996; Kristensen et al., 1998), and other sediments as well. Immobilization due to
adsorption reactions in these sediments may further reduce the availability of
phosphorus (e.g. Krom & Berner, 1980; Clough et al., 1983; Sundby et al., 1992) and
ammonium (Mackin & Aller, 1984) in the porewater. Thus, there is an increased
loading of phosphate and ammonium to the sediment. The leaching phase of
mangrove leaf decomposition is characterized by a rapid loss of soluble organic
compounds (sugars, organic acids, proteins, phenolics, etc.) and inorganic minerals

(K, Ca, Mg, Mn, etc.). Regardless of vegetation type, this phase lasts anywhere from a
few days to a few weeks and can be responsible for substantial losses of carbon,
nitrogen, and phosphorus (Parsons et al., 1990; Chale, 1993; Steinke et al., 1993;
Taylor and Barlocher, 1996; France et al., 1997). The biotic contributions in this early
stage of decomposition are usually minimal and are most often limited to microbial
conditioning of the litter (Nykvist, 1959; Cundell et al., 1979; France et al., 1997).
NUTRIENTS IN MANGROVE ECOSYSTEM
Table1.
NITROGEN
Nitrogen is an essential element for a variety of biological and chemical
processes, both at micro level i.e. organism level as well as macrolevel i.e. at the scale
of ecosystem. It is present in different inorganic (viz. Ammonium, Nitrate, Nitrite) as
well as organic form
Bacterial activity regulates most of the available ammonium pool, particularly
in deeper sediments, devoid of other biota, just like any other aquatic system.
Ammonia immobilization and assimilation by microbes, plants etc. always
accompany and counteracts the mineralization process. The extent these process
balance each other is depended upon the carbon nitrogen(C: N) ratio of the
decomposing organic matter. Substance rich in nitrogen favors net mineralization,
where as those poor in nitrogen favors net immobilization.

Concentration of

ammonium is relatively high and influence by tidal cycle, plant uptake and seasonal
change, microbial decomposition, temperature, rainfall etc. (Boto 1982, 1984, 1985).
The availability of sediment nutrients to microbes and plants is complicated by
geochemical processes, such as the involvement of some nutrients in adsorption

reactions to clay minerals. The ammonium adsorption is low in mangrove sediments


compared to temperate salt marsh sediments, probably due to higher concentration of
competitive cations such as iron (Holmboe & Kristensen, 2003). In mangrove
sediments, ammonium excretion by microfauna, mesofauna and macrofauna must
occur, but rate are almost wholly unknown. Indication of ammonification in the water
column comes mainly from the estimates of ammonium excretion by protozoan and
metazoans grazers. Ikeda et.al.,( In: Alongi et al, 1992 ) suggested the excretion rate
of various organisms ranged from 1 to 415 mg N. animal-1 h-1 over the body sizes,
ranging from ~1 to 10,000 g.animal-1.
The concentration of Dissolved Organic Nitrogen (DON) is low in tropical
mangrove water. DON concentration has been observed decreasing with increase in
salinity (Nixon et al 1984, Wong, 1984). Lowest concentration of DON has been
recorded in the pre-monsoon season due to dilution from rain (Sarala devi et.al 1983).
During a tidal cycle highest concentration occurs at high tide and decreases during
ebb tide (Guerrero et al, 1988, Ovalle et. al., 1990). Similarly the concentration of
DON is also less in mangrove soil as compare to other tropical marine deposits.
High nutrient loading in coastal ecosystems has recently caused serious
eutrophication problems. In a eutrophic shallow environment, oxygen-depleted water
is occasionally generated at the bottom of the water column due to the accumulation
of organic matter (Ochi and Takeoka, 1986; Kemp et al., 1992) and can cause the
death of benthic macro-fauna (Rosenberg and Loo, 1988). Benthic mineralization is
considered as the important nitrogen pathway in shallow ecosystems (e.g., Blackburn
and Henriksen, 1983; Kemp et al., 1992). Nitrification processes occur in sediments
close to the sediment - water interface where there is availability of oxygen, such as at

oxidized line of animal borrows and within the oxidized region of Rhizophora (Boto,
1982). Assimilatory uptake of nitrogen counter balances the oxidation process; where
by the uptake of the nitrate occurs for the growth of mangrove and bacterial cell(Boto
et.al 1985).
Recycled dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) is released from the sediment to
the overlying water through sediment-water exchange processes and can be taken up
by phytoplankton. Therefore, benthic algae in the intertidal flat ecosystems can
control the flux of DIN at the sediment-water interface. Denitrification is also known
to be a significant sink in the coastal ecosystem by the formation of gaseous nitrogen
(e.g., Kaplan et al., 1977; Koike and Hattori, 1978; Nedwell and Trimmer, 1996).
Nitrogen and N2O is the end product following the Michaelis-Menten kinetics.
(Nedwell, 1975; Iuzumi, 1986). The sedimentary denitrification rate is affected by
bacterial processes associated with DIN cycling in marine estuaries in two ways:
(1) Ammonium oxidation by nitrification in the sediment is strongly coupled with
denitrification (Jenkins and Kemp, 1984; Rysgaard et al., 1995; Ogilvie et al.,
1997), and thus nitrification itself indirectly removes nitrogen through these
coupled processes, and
(2) Dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium competes with denitrification for
nitrate as the terminal electron acceptor for respiratory electron transport (Herbert
and Nedwell, 1990).
(3) The competition between the denitrifier and ammonifier under anaerobic
conditions consequently affects the removal of nitrogen by sedimentary
denitrification (Sorensen 1978).

PHOSPHORUS

10

In flooded salt marshes and mangroves, the grass and mangrove trees are able to
excrete

oxygen

through

their

root

system,

producing

an

oxygenated

microenvironment (Silva et al., 1991; Mendelsshon and Postek, 1982; Mendelsshon et


al., 1981) capable of trapping P as FePO4 following the reaction:
4Fe2+ + O2 + 4H+ 4Fe3+ + 2H2O;
Fe3+ + 3H2O Fe (OH)3 + H+;
Fe (OH)3 + H2PO4 FePO4 + OH- + H2O
In general, the capacity of mangrove soil to immobilize phosphate depends on
the amount of organic matter, its C: P ratio, and the type and amount of clay minerals
present. Dissolution of mineral phosphate also depends on physiochemical
characteristics such as pH, available sulfides, alkalinity and redox state (Boto, 1988).
These factors can, of course, be affected by the activity of microbes and larger
organisms. In comparison with the release rates of phosphorus from mineral
phosphates and refractory organic materials, the turnover time for P uptake, utilization
and excretion by living organisms is very short. Local P cycles can be very efficient in
tropical mangroves, where it has been estimated that up to 88% of the forest P pool is
retained within the system (Boto and Bunt, 1982).
Mangrove trees (Boto and Wellington, 1983; Feller et al., 1999) and microbes
(Alongi, 1994) are often phosphorus (P)-limited in the tropics. The P concentrations in
seawater and porewater of unpolluted mangrove forests are low (Alongi et al., 1992),
and the affinity of the soils for P usually is very high (e.g. Holmboe et al., 2001).
Together with algal growth, leaf litter dynamics have been viewed as important for the
nitrogen cycling of fringe mangrove sediments (Kristensen et al., 1995), and P cycling
is also likely to be influenced by leaf fall and decomposition. The P dynamics in

11

mangrove sediments are closely coupled to the activity of Fe- and sulfate-reducing
bacteria, which are the primary microbial decomposers in the normally reduced
sediments (Sherman et al., 1998; Kristensen et al., 2000).
Variations in dissolved P concentrations may mirror changes observed for
dissolved N. For instance, in mangrove estuaries of the wet tropics, dissolved and
total phosphorus concentrations decrease with increasing salinity (Nixon et al., 1984;
Wong,1984; Liebezeit and Rau, 1988; Robertson et al., 1992) Dissolved and
particulate phosphorus concentrates in mangrove sediment are usually generally <40
M for DIP and <4 M for DOP. Concentrations vary over time and intertidal
position, reflecting seasonal effects of plant uptake and microbial growth,
temperature, rainfall, oxygen availability and sediment type (Boto, 1982, 1984).
Dissolved inorganic phosphorus (soluble reactive phosphate) exists mainly as a
nutrient salt (HPO42-) at the pH of seawater. Values in unpolluted mangrove waterways
range from < 0.1 to - 20 M whereas Total P content of mangrove sediments appears
to fall within the range of 100-1600 M g-1 (Boto, 1988)
Soluble reactive phosphate is readily assimilated by bacteria, algae and higher
plants, including mangroves. Most dissolved P in aquatic systems consists of various
organic phosphates (primarily phosphate esters originating from living cells), which
are often resistant to hydrolysis and therefore of limited availability. Mangrove soils
are expected to contain a high proportion of organic P compounds due to their
generally high organic matter content (Boto, 1988). Hesse (1962,1963) for instance,
found that 75-80% of the total extractable P was organic. Boto (1988) has pointed out
that much of this organic P is in the phytate form and bound to humic compounds and
is probably not readily available for microbial and mangrove plant nutrition. .

12

Although organic P is the major fraction, the inorganic phosphates probably


represent the largest potential pool of plant-available, soluble reactive phosphorus
(Boto, 1988). Most of the inorganic P in mangrove sediments is either bound in the
form of Ca, Fe and Al phosphates or as soluble reactive phosphorus adsorbed onto, or
incorporated into, hydrated Fe and Al sesquioxides . Total organic P concentrations;
proportionally greater in surface (0-25 cm) sediments; reflect the influence of roots,
whereas the inorganic fractions mainly Fe-P, proportionally and in real terms increase
gradually with depth reflecting the influence of increasing anoxia particularly below
the root layer(Boto,1988) Patterns of P in estuaries subjected to heavy monsoonal
rainfall are also nearly identical to those for nitrogen. Lowest P concentrations has
been observed during dry periods (Sarala Devi et al., 1983; Balakrishnan Nair et al.,
1984)
Table 2.
Figure 2a & 2b
Sulfur
Sulphur cycling in mangrove sediments can have significant impacts on the benthic
community due to a variety of secondary effects, e.g. associated pH changes. Due to
the high salinity conditions existing in the mangrove ecosystems, sulphate reduction
not expected to be controlled by the concentration of sulphate in the mangrove forest
sediments. It is much more likely that the rates are controlled by the availability of
organic matter and the biological and physical processes acting on the oxidation of the
sediments, e.g. bioturbation, root oxidation and tides. Sulphate reduction appears to be
an important process in mangrove sediments, and relatively high rates have been
found (e.g. Kristensen et a/., 1995; Kristensen, 1997; Alongi et a/., 1998; Holmer et

13

a/., 1999). This suggests that sulphate reduction may contribute significantly to
mineralization of organic carbon and nutrient availability in tropical mangrove
sediments (Holmer et al., 1994).
The accumulation of sulphur in subtidal marine sediments is primarily
controlled by the rate of sulphate reduction and the oxidation state of the sediment
(Thode-Andersen & Jrgensen, 1989). In tidal environments, however, additional
factors also play an important role. Tidal currents and wave action can affect the
oxidation status of sediments directly by increased advective transport of pore water
and particles. During low tide, the sediment surface desiccates and oxygen can
penetrate deeper into the sediment via burrows and cracks in the surface. The
presence of rooted vegetation also strongly affects the biogeochemical cycling of
sulphur by vertical translocation of organic matter and oxygen (Holmer & Nielsen,
1997; Holmer & Laursen, 2002), and the cycling of sulphur is closely coupled to the
reactive iron pools (Thamdrup, 2000). Reactive iron oxides present in sediments may
efficiently oxidize reduced sulphides. This suggests that the cycling of reduced
sulphur compounds is highly dynamic in mangrove forest sediments. Pyrite appears to
be the most important inorganic sulphur component in mangrove sediments, attaining
pool sizes 50-100 times higher than acid volatile sulfur pools (Kristensen et al., 1991,
1992; Holmer et a!., 1994, 1999; Alongi et al., 1998).
There is quite a significant burial of sulphides in the mangrove forest
sediments in particular in the mid-intertidal sediments, where the oxidation by
bioturbating organisms is low and the sulphate reduction activity high, but also the
high-intertidal sediments show large accumulations below depths of bioturbation
(Holmer et al., 1994). In addition to the burial of inorganic sulphur compounds, an

14

accumulation of organic sulphur has been found in the deep sediments in the inner
part of mangrove forests (Holmer et al., 1994). A similar accumulation of organic
sulphur has been observed in mangrove peats (Altschuler et al., 1983), but the
underlying mechanisms behind this accumulation are not well understood. However,
the burial of inorganic sulphur appears to be limited by the availability of iron
(Holmer et al., 1994), which may favor formation of organic sulphur compounds.
FIGURE 3a 3b
HEAVY METAL
Elevated concentrations of heavy metals have been recorded in mangrove
sediments all over the world, which often reflects the long-term pollution caused by
human activities (Lacerda et al.,1992; Perdomo et al., 1998; Harris and Santos, 2000;
Tam and Wong, 2000). Due to their Inherent physical and chemical properties,
mangrove muds have an extraordinary capacity to accumulate materials discharged to
the near shore marine environment (Harbison, 1986).The cycling of trace metals in
mangrove ecosystems has been the subject of recent studies, due to the potential role
of mangroves in the abatement of trace metal pollution (Lacerda, 1998).
Trace metals enter mangrove ecosystems with the incoming tide associated
with suspended particles, iron and manganese oxi-hydroxides (Lacerda et al., 1998).
When reaching the reducing conditions, dominant in most mangrove environments,
these oxi-hydroxides are reduced and dissolved, and can release their trace metal load
to the water column. Since mangrove waters can have as much as 10 mg/L of
dissolved sulfide, due to the predominant sulfate reduction metabolism of mangrove
sediments, many trace metals are efficiently precipitated as insoluble sulfides
(Harbinson, 1986a, b; Lacerda et al., 1997; Clark et al., 1997). Due to permanent

15

anaerobic conditions of mangrove sediments and high sedimentation rates in


mangrove environments, trace metals suffer rapid accumulation and burial in the
sedimentary column. Thus, mangroves can act as biogeochemical barriers to trace
metal transport in coastal waters (Lacerda, 1998). The mechanisms described above
may also hamper trace metal uptake by mangrove plants. However, trace metals
which do not form stable sulfides, will not be affected by this precipitation process
(Lacerda, 1997).
Table 3

Many studies on trace metals in mangrove plants have shown concentration


factors (leaf concentration to sediment concentration ratio) lower than 1.0 for most
trace metals, the only exception being Mn, which always has concentration factors
higher than 1.0. Of all trace elements studied, Mn generally, shows a significant
correlation between sediment and leaf concentrations (Lacerda, 1997).
Mangrove sediments are anaerobic and reduced, as well as being rich in
sulphide and organic matter. They therefore favor the retention of water-borne heavy
metals and the subsequent oxidation of sulphides between tides allows metal
mobilization and bioavailability (Silva et al., 1990; Tam and Wong, 2000).
Concentrations of heavy metals in sediments usually exceed those of the overlying
water by 35 orders of magnitude (Zabetoglou et al., 2002) and, with such high
concentrations, the bioavailability of even a minute fraction of the total sediment
metal content assumes considerable importance with respect to bioaccumulation
within both animal and plant species living in the mangrove environment. Since
heavy metals cannot be degraded biologically, they are transferred and concentrated
into plant tissues from soils and pose long-term damaging effects on plants. However
Tam and Wang (1993) suggested that the mangrove soil component has a large

16

capacity to retain heavy metals, and the role of mangrove plants in retaining metals
will depend on plant age and their biomass production.
Many mangrove ecosystems are close to urban development areas (Shriadiah,
1999, Tam and Wong, 2000; MacFarlane, 2002; Preda and Cox, 2002) and are
impacted by urban and industrial runoff, which contains trace and heavy metals in the
dissolved or particulate form.
MANGROVE AS A SINK OF NUTRIENTS
Mangrove ecosystems are one of the major types of natural wetlands in
tropical and subtropical regions, flooded by fresh river water as well as by salty
seawater. Similar to other estuarine zones, mangrove ecosystems also receive a large
amount of waste from their related drainage and rivers and have become a massive
pollution sink. Recent studies have also questioned the importance of mangroves as a
source of inorganic nutrients and have shown that certain mangrove ecosystems may
not be as significant sources as accepted before and may even represent sinks of
inorganic nutrients The use of a mangrove ecosystem, the same as other natural
wetlands, as an alternative low cost sewage treatment facility has been proposed by a
number of researchers (Henley, 1978; Clough et al., 1983; Richardson and Davis,
1987; Tam and Wong, 1993; Breaux and Day, 1994; Corredor and Morell, 1994,
Tam., 1996; Wong et al., 1995) especially in coastal regions with pressing needs for
wastewater treatment.

Like other trees, mangrove trees absorb nutrients and

pollutants from the inerstitial waters or sediment solution in the vicinity of the roots
hairs (Sadiq, 1992). However, there seems to be a knowledge gap as to the role of
these cations for phytoplankton dynamics in mangrove ecosystems. For seawater,
these cations are usually treated as conservative, yet relatively little is known about

17

their sources or sinks in mangrove creeks and the biotic and/or abiotic processes
controlling their concentrations (Cohen et al 1999).
The effectiveness of a wetland system to remove the input pollutants is highly
dependent on the chemical, biological and/or physical processes, and the entire soilplant-water system is important in the reduction of pollutants from wastewater
(Dunbabin and Bowmer, 1992; Gale et al., 1993). The performance of a natural
wetland wastewater treatment system therefore depends very much on the wetland
characteristics, which are extremely variable. It is difficult, if not impossible, to
translate results from one geographical area to another, or from one type of wetland to
another (Trattner & Woods, 1989). Despite their significance in purifying wastewater,
natural wetlands in many countries including the United States are legally limited to
providing only tertiary treatment of secondary waste (Breaux & Day, 1994). Most
studies were focused on the removal mechanisms of suspended solids, organic matter
and nutrients from domestic or livestock wastewater by wetlands (Corredor and
Morell, 1994)..
Conclusion
Mangroves ecosystem demonstrate close link between vegetation assemblage
and geomorphologic defined habitats. However despite of their close link, the
prevailing geomorphologic and ecomorppholgical view are quite contrary the
ecologist view mangrove as highly productive source of organic matter from where,
there is a net out welling of energy supporting complex estuarine and near shore food
wave. Geologists, however, view mangrove sediments as a sink for nutrients
characterized by long term import of sediments. Though a lot work has been done in
order to get a clear picture of nutrient cycling in mangrove ecosystem, but still the

18

dynamics is not completely understood. It is also felt that there is an urgent need of
establishment of the detailed database in order to have a more cleare picture of the
cycling of nutrients

19

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