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Nutrient availability at different altitudes in a tropical montane forest in Ecuador

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2008

Nathalie Soethe*
Affiliation:
Department of Plant Nutrition and Fertilization, Humboldt University of Berlin, Albrecht Thaer Weg 4, 14195 Berlin, Germany
Johannes Lehmann
Affiliation:
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell University, USA
Christof Engels
Affiliation:
Department of Plant Nutrition and Fertilization, Humboldt University of Berlin, Albrecht Thaer Weg 4, 14195 Berlin, Germany
*
1Corresponding author. Email: Nathalie.Soethe@agrar.hu-berlin.de

Abstract

We measured macronutrient concentrations in soils and leaves of trees, shrubs and herbs at 1900, 2400 and 3000 m in an Ecuadorian tropical montane forest. Foliar N, P, S and K concentrations in trees were highest at 1900 m (21.7, 2.2, 1.9 and 10.0 mg g−1). At 2400 and 3000 m, foliar concentrations of N, P, S and K were similar to nutrient concentrations in tropical trees with apparent nutrient deficiency, as presented in literature. Unlike foliar nutrient concentrations, the amounts of plant-available nutrients in mineral soil were not affected by altitude or increased significantly with increasing altitude. High C:N ratios (25:1 at 2400 m and 34:1 at 3000 m) and C:P ratios (605:1 at 2400 m and 620:1 at 3000 m) in the soil organic layer suggested slow mineralization of plant litter and thus, a low availability of N and P at high altitudes. Foliar N:P ratios were significantly higher at 2400 m (11.3:1) than at 3000 m (8.3:1), indicating that at high altitudes, N supply was more critical than P supply. In conclusion, the access of plants to several nutrients, most likely N, P, S and K, decreased markedly with increasing altitude in this tropical montane forest.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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