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Individual Highlight

Geographic, Environmental, and Biotic Sources of Variation in the Nutrient Relations of Tropical Montane Forests

Photo of Regional groupings of tropical montane cloud forest and associated lower and upper altitudinal limits of the cloud belt (modified after Scatena 2010). U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Regional groupings of tropical montane cloud forest and associated lower and upper altitudinal limits of the cloud belt (modified after Scatena 2010). U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Incorporating other geographic, environmental and biotic variables in tropical montane forests biogeochemistry, might give scientists a more accurate picture of plant-soil feedbacks, forest productivity, and soil carbon storage.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Gonzalez, Grizelle 
Research Station : International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1158

Summary

Tropical montane forests (TMF) are associated with a widely observed suite of characteristics encompassing forest structure, plant traits and biogeochemistry. With respect to nutrient relations, montane forests are characterized by slow decomposition of organic matter, high investment in below-ground biomass and poor litter quality, relative to tropical lowland forests. However, within TMF there is considerable variation in substrate age, parent material, disturbance and species composition. The scientists emphasize that many TMFs are likely to be co-limited by multiple nutrients, and that feedback among soil properties, species traits, microbial communities and environmental conditions drive forest productivity and soil carbon storage. To date, studies of the biogeochemistry of montane forests have been restricted to a few, mostly neotropical, sites and focused mainly on trees while ignoring mycorrhizas (fungus), epiphytes (air plants) and microbial community structure. Incorporating the geographic, environmental and biotic variability in TMF will lead to a greater recognition of plant–soil feedbacks that are critical to understanding constraints on productivity, both under present conditions and under future climate, nitrogen-deposition and land-use scenarios.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • James W. Dalling, University of Illinois
  • Katherine Heineman, University of Illinois
  • Rebecca Ostertag, University of Hawai'i
  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute