Direct evidence for phosphorus limitation on Amazon forest productivity

Cunha, Hellen Fernanda Viana; Andersen, Kelly M.; Lugli, Laynara Figueiredo; Santana, Flavia Delgado; Aleixo, Izabela Fonseca; Moraes, Anna Martins; Garcia, Sabrina; Di Ponzio, Raffaello; Mendoza, Erick Oblitas; Brum, Bárbara; Rosa, Jéssica Schmeisk; Cordeiro, Amanda L.; Portela, Bruno Takeshi Tanaka; Ribeiro, Gyovanni; Coelho, Sara Deambrozi; de Souza, Sheila Trierveiler; Silva, Lara Siebert; Antonieto, Felipe; Pires, Maria; Salomão, Ana Cláudia; Miron, Ana Caroline; de Assis, Rafael L.; Domingues, Tomas F.; Aragão, Luiz E.O.C.; Meir, Patrick; Camargo, José Luis; Manzi, Antonio Ocimar; Nagy, Laszlo; Mercado, Lina M. ORCID:; Hartley, Iain P.; Quesada, Carlos Alberto. 2022 Direct evidence for phosphorus limitation on Amazon forest productivity. Nature, 608 (7923). 558-562.

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The productivity of rainforests growing on highly weathered tropical soils is expected to be limited by phosphorus availability1. Yet, controlled fertilization experiments have been unable to demonstrate a dominant role for phosphorus in controlling tropical forest net primary productivity. Recent syntheses have demonstrated that responses to nitrogen addition are as large as to phosphorus2, and adaptations to low phosphorus availability appear to enable net primary productivity to be maintained across major soil phosphorus gradients3. Thus, the extent to which phosphorus availability limits tropical forest productivity is highly uncertain. The majority of the Amazonia, however, is characterized by soils that are more depleted in phosphorus than those in which most tropical fertilization experiments have taken place2. Thus, we established a phosphorus, nitrogen and base cation addition experiment in an old growth Amazon rainforest, with a low soil phosphorus content that is representative of approximately 60% of the Amazon basin. Here we show that net primary productivity increased exclusively with phosphorus addition. After 2 years, strong responses were observed in fine root (+29%) and canopy productivity (+19%), but not stem growth. The direct evidence of phosphorus limitation of net primary productivity suggests that phosphorus availability may restrict Amazon forest responses to CO2 fertilization4, with major implications for future carbon sequestration and forest resilience to climate change.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0028-0836
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Publisher link (see Related URLs) provides a read-only full-text copy of the published paper.
Additional Keywords: carbon cycle, tropical ecology
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
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Date made live: 24 Jan 2024 14:38 +0 (UTC)

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