A preliminary in situ decomposition study, using litter bags, was carried out in a small subtropical mangrove community in Hong Kong from December 1986 to April 1987. Losses in ash-free dry weight, organic C, N, P and other macronutrients (including K, Ca and Mg) of mangrove leaves
were followed biweekly. The results showed that among the three dominant species being studied, Aegiceras corniculatum (L.) Blanco had the lowest litterbag loss rate, followed by Avicennia marina (Forsk.) Vierh and Kandelia candel (L.) Druce. At the end of 12 weeks' incubation,
12.7%, 60.2% and 32.6% of the original leaf material remained in bags containing K. candel, A. corniculatum and A. marina, respectively. This indicates that A. corniculatum was the most resistant species to leaf decomposition. It was also clear that A. corniculatum
had the lowest concentrations of N and P but the widest range of C:N ratio in its leaf when compared with the other two species. This suggests that rate of leaf decomposition might be species specific and is related to the chemical composition of the leaves. Despite the differences in litterbag
loss rates among the three species, they all followed the same pattern of degradation which could be described by linear equations. There was an immediate rise in leaf C:N ratio during the first 2 weeks of incubation which then decreased gradually and maintained at around 24:1 throughout the
rest of the incubation period. In parallel with the decrease in C:N ratios, significant losses of N, P and other macronutrients were observed in A. marina and K. candel which might have been exported from the mangrove zone to foreshore and become an important nutrient source
for other marine organisms.
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