NCEAS Project 12147

Revisiting nutrient limitation in tropical forests

  • Cory C. Cleveland
  • Alan R. Townsend

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group12th—15th May 2008Participant List  
Working Group20th—23rd January 2009Participant List  
Working Group17th—20th May 2011Participant List  
Working Group4th—7th June 2013Participant List  

Tropical forests have enormous ecological and societal significance. They are home to exceptional biological diversity (including humans), they profoundly affect a suite of globalscale processes, and unfortunately, they are experiencing myriad effects of global environmental change. Yet, our understanding of basic ecosystem processes such as nutrient limitation in the tropics lags far behind many temperate and high latitude ecosystems, and those data that do exist have not been thoroughly synthesized. In many respects, this deficit results from a scarcity of data, but more from the fact that the tropical rain forest biome is extraordinarily complex. Tropical forests present many unique challenges to resolving questions about nutrient limitation, including the potential for limitation by multiple elements across both small and large spatial scales. Despite these challenges, all confirmed participants of our proposed NCEAS workshop believe that we are now at the point where a productive synthesis of data describing tropical nutrient cycling and limitation can and should be undertaken, and that this endeavor has the potential to generate a suite of valuable products that will be of broad utility to ecologists, biogeochemists and to society as a whole. We therefore propose an NCEAS workshop that assembles ecologists, geologists and ecosystem modelers that collectively represent five continents and all major tropical regions to pursue three goals: 1) assemble a database and synthesize data collected using a variety of techniques to assess nutrient limitation in tropical rain forest ecosystems; 2) perform a metaanalysis of both above- and below-ground tropical nutrient limitation; and 3) further the development of conceptual and analytical ecosystem models that can better predict the fate of tropical forests in a rapidly changing environment. Our ultimate goal is to take full advantage of the NCEAS model – ranging from the opportunity to pursue the basic processes of data and conceptual synthesis, to the use of ecoinformatics resources that are unique to NCEAS – to advance our understanding of the nature of nutrient limitation in tropical forests. The time is right for a thorough synthesis, and given the importance of tropical forests to global biogeochemistry and to society as a whole, the potential value of such an effort is high.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Data Set Cleveland, Cory C. 2010. Tropical forest nutrient limitation. (Online version)
Journal Article Cleveland, Cory C.; Townsend, Alan R.; Taylor, Philip; Alvarez-Clare, Silvia; Bustamante, Mercedes; Chuyong, George; Dobrowski, Solomon Z.; Grierson, Pauline; Harms, Kyle E.; Houlton, Benjamin Z.; Marklein, Alison; Parton, William J.; Porder, Stephen; Reed, Sasha; Sierra, Carlos A.; Silver, Whendee L.; Tanner, Edmund; Wieder, Will. 2011. Relationships among net primary productivity, nutrients and climate in tropical rain forest: A pan-tropical analysis. Ecology Letters. Vol: 14. Pages 939-947. (Online version)
Journal Article Cusack, Daniela F.; Chou, Wendy W.; Yang, Wendy H.; Harmon, Mark; Silver, Whendee L.; Lidet. 2009. Controls on long-term root and leaf litter decomposition in neotropical forests. Global Change Biology. Vol: 15(5). Pages 1339-1355.
Journal Article Parton, William J.; Silver, Whendee L.; Burke, Ingrid C.; Grassens, Leo; Harmon, Mark; Currie, William S.; King, Jennifer; Adair, Elizabeth C.; Brandt, Leslie A.; Hart, Stephen C.; Fasth, Becky. 2007. Global-scale similarities in nitrogen release patterns during long-term decomposition. Science. Vol: 315. Pages 361-364.
Journal Article Townsend, Alan R.; Cleveland, Cory C.; Houlton, Benjamin Z.; Alden, Caroline B.; White, James WC. 2011. Multi-element regulation of the tropical forest carbon cycle. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Vol: 9(1). Pages 9-17. (Online version)