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Nutrient input–output budgets of tropical forest ecosystems: a review

  • L. A. Bruijnzeel (a1)

Atmospheric gains and hydrologic losses of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen for 25 tropical forest sites on a variety of geological substrates are reviewed. The data set comprised 19 lowland and six montane sites. Twenty studies were subjected to further analysis after initial quality control. These were subdivided into forests on (1) very infertile soils (N = 5), (2) (moderately) infertile soils (N = 5), (3) moderately fertile soils (N = 4) and (4) fertile soils (N = 4). Two studies pertaining to large river basins were treated separately. Although variation in nutrient fluxes was large, reflecting both natural and methodological factors, scatter plots of annual calcium, magnesium and potassium losses v. annual runoff for small catchment areas revealed four groups with characteristic nutrient export patterns that corresponded closely with soil fertility levels. Element losses from the two large basins were much higher than those recorded for small basins in the same areas and were interpreted in terms of depths of weathering front, river incision and root network. Phosphorus accumulated in virtually all cases, reflecting the low mobility of the element. Nitrogen budgets were generally very incomplete. There is a need for more and careful studies of tropical forest nutrient budgets, especially for nitrogen. Standardization of methodology is essential if comparability of results is to be improved.

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