Ecosystem condition assessments were conducted for 12 mangrove sites in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Nine sites were selected randomly; three were selected a priori based on best professional judgment to represent a poor, intermediate and good environmental condition. During single visits a visual assessment generated numerical scores for each site relative to the reference condition range. Relationships were examined among variables to evaluate relevance of visual observations and empirical data of environmental condition. Sites in poorest visual condition possessed low concentrations of soil contaminants as hydrological attributes that restricted contaminant inflow lowered visual scores. Bacterial abundance related to the greatest number of variables, and was the only indicator that correlated with the visually derived score (0.60, p < 0.05). Soil enzymatic activity ratios within classes provided estimates of microbial nutrient status. Low peptidases/phosphatase and glycosidases/phosphatase ratios supported the conclusion reached from the molar ratios of nutrients, that mangrove soils were phosphorous limited. A positive correlation (0.71, p < 0.05) observed between C:N ratios in leaf tissue and soil from all mangrove sites indicated that relative molar ratios of major nutrients in leaf tissue were reflective of limitations in the soil. Principal components analysis guided a reduction in variables retained for analysis, and provided an ordination of the sites which grouped into three clusters and two outliers. Grouping was primarily influenced by soil C:N. In future studies measuring major nutrients in soil, C:N:P, could possibly function as a single, cost effective indicator to validate rapid visual condition assessments of mangroves.
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- Condition assessments
- Gulf of Mexico
- Sediment quality