Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Potassium, phosphorus, or nitrogen limit root allocation, tree growth, or litter production in a lowland tropical forest

  • Author(s): Wright, SJ
  • Yavitt, JB
  • Wurzburger, N
  • Turner, BI
  • Tanner, EVJ
  • Sayer, EJ
  • Santiago, LS
  • Kaspari, M
  • Hedin, LO
  • Harms, KE
  • Garcia, MN
  • Corre, MD
  • et al.

Published Web Location

We maintained a factorial nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) addition experiment for 11 years in a humid lowland forest growing on a relatively fertile soil in Panama to evaluate potential nutrient limitation of tree growth rates, fine-litter production, and fine-root biomass. We replicated the eight factorial treatments four times using 32 plots of 40×40 m each. The addition of K was associated with significant decreases in stand-level fineroot biomass and, in a companion study of seedlings, decreases in allocation to roots and increases in height growth rates. The addition of K and N together was associated with significant increases in growth rates of saplings and poles (1-10 cm in diameter at breast height) and a further marginally significant decrease in stand-level fine-root biomass. The addition of P was associated with a marginally significant (P = 0.058) increase in fine-litter production that was consistent across all litter fractions. Our experiment provides evidence that N, P, and K all limit forest plants growing on a relatively fertile soil in the lowland tropics, with the strongest evidence for limitation by K among seedlings, saplings, and poles. © 2011 by the Ecological Society of America.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC Academic Senate's Open Access Policy. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
Current View