Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Biology (Integrative Biology)

Major Professor

Christina L. Richards, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David B. Lewis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gordon A. Fox, Ph.D.


Red mangrove, biomass, maximum photosynthetic rate, root to shoot ratio


Many coastal plant species thrive across a range of environmental conditions, often displaying dramatic phenotypic variation in response to environmental variation. We characterized the response of the critical foundation species Rhizophora mangle L. to full factorial combinations of salt and nitrogen (N). We used seedlings collected from five populations and measured traits related to salt tolerance and N amendment. The response to increasing salt included significant plasticity in succulence, leaf mass area (LMA), and root to shoot ratio (R:S). Seedlings also showed overall reduced maximum photosynthetic rate in response to N amendment, but this response depended on the level of salt and varied by site of origin of the seedlings. Seedlings from different sites also differed in height growth, LMA, R:S, and total dry biomass. Generally, survival was lower in high salt and high N, but the impact varied among sites. Overall, this study revealed significant trait plasticity in response to salt and N level, and differentiation of responses of seedlings among different sites. Seedling survival depended on maternal family for 3 of 5 sites showing variation within and among sites. Variation in trait plasticity and seedling survival in R. mangle may be important for future adaptation to a complex mosaic of environmental conditions.