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The potential for lignocellulose degradation supported by microflora attached to submerged mangrove leaves in various stages of decay and the effects on degradation rates due to soluble leaf components were examined in a Bahamian red mangrove estuary. Estuarine microbial assemblages
associated with highly-decomposed lignin-enriched red mangrove leaves degraded mangrove leaf [14C-lignin]lignocellulose and [14C-polysaccharide]lignocellulose at rates higher than those supported by microorganisms attached to leaves in earlier stages of decomposition.
Mangrove leaves become relatively enriched in lignocellulose during decomposition, due to preferential loss or utilization of soluble compounds, while the lignocellulose component is gradually enriched in lignin content due to the more rapid degradation of structural polysaccharide components.
However, the higher rate of lignocellulose degradation by microbial populations from older leaves was not attributable to microbial adaptation to lignocellulose-rich conditions. Rather, stimulation of general bacterial metabolic activity by soluble components leaching from highly-decomposed
mangrove leaves resulted in the observed higher rates of lignocellulose mineralization, both for natural bacterial assemblages obtained from the surface of mangrove leaves and for a ligninolytic bacterial culture isolated from mangrove swamp water. The presence in seawater of soluble components
of mangrove leaves thus may influence the utilization of structural, lignocellulosic components of the leaves, and therefore the fate of this refractory carbon source in the food web of tropical marine ecosystems.
The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.