Revisiting Nutrient Limitation in Tropical Forests

Principal Investigator(s): 

Cory C. Cleveland and Alan R. Townsend

Tropical rain forests have enormous ecological and societal significance, housing most of the world's biological diversity and providing a suite of ecosystem services to much of the world's population. However, they also play another critical, less publicized role. They store much of the world's carbon in their biomass and soils, and as a result, play an important role in regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and global climate. Unfortunately, we do not fully understand how the availability of soil nutrients regulates carbon uptake and storage in tropical forests, thus limiting our ability to accurately predict how important processes in these ecosystems will respond to global environmental change.

We will assemble scientists from multiple disciplines and countries representing all major tropical regions to assess how soil nutrient availability regulates carbon uptake and losses in tropical rain forests. We will analyze and synthesize data collected using a variety of techniques and from many tropical rain forest sites to address how soil nutrients - such as nitrogen and phosphorus - vary across the tropical biome, and how variations in soil fertility affect important processes like plant growth, organic matter decomposition and carbon storage. The overall goal of this project is to increase our understanding of how tropical ecosystems function so that we may more accurately predict and manage their fate in a rapidly changing world. 

More information about this research project, participants, and publications.


This work is supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center funded by NSF (Grant #EF-0553768), the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the State of California.