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Potassium, phosphorus, or nitrogen limit root allocation, tree growth, or litter production in a lowland tropical forest

Wright, S. Joseph; Yavitt, Joseph B.; Wurzburger, Nina; Turner, Benjamin L.; Tanner, Edmund V.J.; Sayer, Emma J.; Santiago, Louis S.; Kaspari, Michael; Hedin, Lars O.; Harms, Kyle E.; Garcia, Milton N.; Corre, Marife D.. 2011 Potassium, phosphorus, or nitrogen limit root allocation, tree growth, or litter production in a lowland tropical forest. Ecology, 92 (8). 1616-1625. 10.1890/10-1558.1

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Abstract/Summary

We maintained a factorial nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) addition experiment for 11 years in a humid lowland forest growing on a relatively fertile soil in Panama to evaluate potential nutrient limitation of tree growth rates, fine-litter production, and fine-root biomass. We replicated the eight factorial treatments four times using 32 plots of 40 × 40 m each. The addition of K was associated with significant decreases in stand-level fine-root biomass and, in a companion study of seedlings, decreases in allocation to roots and increases in height growth rates. The addition of K and N together was associated with significant increases in growth rates of saplings and poles (1–10 cm in diameter at breast height) and a further marginally significant decrease in stand-level fine-root biomass. The addition of P was associated with a marginally significant (P = 0.058) increase in fine-litter production that was consistent across all litter fractions. Our experiment provides evidence that N, P, and K all limit forest plants growing on a relatively fertile soil in the lowland tropics, with the strongest evidence for limitation by K among seedlings, saplings, and poles.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1890/10-1558.1
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 onwards > Biodiversity > BD Topic 2 - Ecological Processes in the Environment
CEH Sections: Pywell
ISSN: 0012-9658
Additional Keywords: fertilization, Barro Colorado Nature Monument, Panama, fine litter, fine roots, nitrogen, nutrient limitation, phosphorus, potassium, tree growth, tropics
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 30 Aug 2011 11:38
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/14999

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