Variation in wood nutrients along a tropical soil fertility gradient

Katherine D. Heineman, Benjamin L. Turner, James W Dalling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Wood contains the majority of the nutrients in tropical trees, yet controls over wood nutrient concentrations and their function are poorly understood. We measured wood nutrient concentrations in 106 tree species in 10 forest plots spanning a regional fertility gradient in Panama. For a subset of species, we quantified foliar nutrients and wood density to test whether wood nutrients scale with foliar nutrients at the species level, or wood nutrient storage increases with wood density as predicted by the wood economics spectrum. Wood nutrient concentrations varied enormously among species from fourfold in nitrogen (N) to > 30-fold in calcium (Ca), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg) and phosphorus (P). Community-weighted mean wood nutrient concentrations correlated positively with soil Ca, K, Mg and P concentrations. Wood nutrients scaled positively with leaf nutrients, supporting the hypothesis that nutrient allocation is conserved across plant organs. Wood P was most sensitive to variation in soil nutrient availability, and significant radial declines in wood P indicated that tropical trees retranslocate P as sapwood transitions to heartwood. Wood P decreased with increasing wood density, suggesting that low wood P and dense wood are traits associated with tree species persistence on low fertility soils. Substantial variation among species and communities in wood nutrient concentrations suggests that allocation of nutrients to wood, especially P, influences species distributions and nutrient dynamics in tropical forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-454
Number of pages15
JournalThe New phytologist
Volume211
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

Fingerprint

tropical soils
Fertility
soil fertility
Soil
Food
nutrients
nutrient content
wood density
Magnesium
magnesium
Calcium
Panama
calcium
nutrient density
heartwood
sapwood
plant organs
nutrient availability
soil nutrients
Phosphorus

Keywords

  • Fortuna Forest Reserve
  • environmental gradients
  • functional traits
  • nutrient limitation
  • phosphorus cycling
  • stoichiometry
  • wood density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science

Cite this

Variation in wood nutrients along a tropical soil fertility gradient. / Heineman, Katherine D.; Turner, Benjamin L.; Dalling, James W.

In: The New phytologist, Vol. 211, No. 2, 01.07.2016, p. 440-454.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Heineman, Katherine D. ; Turner, Benjamin L. ; Dalling, James W. / Variation in wood nutrients along a tropical soil fertility gradient. In: The New phytologist. 2016 ; Vol. 211, No. 2. pp. 440-454.
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