Differentiation of limiting nutrients within small spatial scales has been observed in coastal mangrove forests, but research on other tropical peatlands suggests it is a more widespread phenomenon. In the Changuinola mire of coastal Panama, oligotrophy was hypothesized to increase along a gradient of peat development (peat doming). Nutrient and carbon concentration of leaf tissue, soil, and soil porewater were characterised over a successive sequence of plant communities along the gradient. Soil phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) concentrations decreased from 1200 μg P g−1 and 27 mg N g−1 to 377 μg P g−1 and 22 mg N g−1 within 2.7 km into the mire interior. These changes coincided with an increase in soil and average leaf N:P molar ratios from 52–128 and 24–41, respectively. Soil P was strongly related to leaf P and soil N:P to foliar N:P. There was a wide range in δ15N values for canopy (4.0 to −9.4‰), Campnosperma panamense (4.0 to −7.8‰) and understorey (4.8 to −3.1‰) species. Foliar δ15N values of canopy species were strongly related to soil N:P, soil P and leaf P. The depleted foliar δ15N values appeared to be an effect of both the N atmospheric source and P limitation. Here, P limitation is likely associated with ombrotrophic conditions that developed as hydrologic inputs became dominated by precipitation.
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