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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

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 – like 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.
Working Group Participants

Principal Investigator(s)

Cory C. Cleveland, Alan R. Townsend

Project Dates

Start: May 1, 2008

End: December 31, 2009



Silvia Alvarez-Clare
University of Florida
Mercedes Bustamante
Universidade de Brasília
Dana Chadwick
Stanford University
George Chuyong
University of Buea
Cory C. Cleveland
University of Montana
Kyla Dahlin
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Eric A. Davidson
Woods Hole Research Center
Stephen Del Grosso
US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Christopher E. Doughty
University of Oxford
Rosie A. Fisher
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Pauline Grierson
University of Western Australia
Kyle E. Harms
Louisiana State University
Benjamin Z. Houlton
University of California, Davis
Adrienne Keller
University of Montana
Alison Marklein
University of California, Davis
Luiz Martinelli
Universidade de São Paulo
Duncan N. Menge
Princeton University
Helene C. Muller-Landau
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
William J. Parton
Colorado State University
Stephen Porder
Brown University
Sasha Reed
University of Colorado, Boulder
Carlos A. Sierra
Oregon State University
Whendee L. Silver
University of California, Berkeley
William Kolby Smith
University of Montana
Benjamin Sullivan
University of Montana
Edmund Tanner
University of Cambridge
Philip G. Taylor
University of Colorado, Boulder
Peter E. Thornton
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Alan R. Townsend
University of Colorado, Boulder
Peter Vitousek
Stanford University
William R. Wieder
University of Colorado, Boulder


  1. Data Set / 2010

    Tropical forest nutrient limitation

  2. Journal Article / 2011

    Relationships among net primary productivity, nutrients and climate in tropical rain forest: A pan-tropical analysis

  3. Journal Article / 2015

    A comparison of plot-based, satellite and Earth system model estimates of tropical forest net primary production

  4. Journal Article / 2009

    Controls on long-term root and leaf litter decomposition in neotropical forests

  5. Journal Article / 2007

    Global-scale similarities in nitrogen release patterns during long-term decomposition

  6. Journal Article / 2017

    Temperature and rainfall interaction to control carbon cycling in tropical forests

  7. Journal Article / 2019

    Greater stem growth, woody allocation, and aboveground biomass in Paleotropical forests than in Neotropical forests

  8. Journal Article / 2011

    Multi-element regulation of the tropical forest carbon cycle

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