Trends in nitrogen and phosphorus cycling are consistent and constrained during tropical secondary forest succession: is secondary forest young primary forest from a nutrient perspective?

Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Benjamin W Sullivan1, Megan Nasto2, Silvia Alvarez-Clare3, Rebecca J Cole4, Sasha Reed5, Robin Chazdon6, Eric A Davidson7 and Cory C. Cleveland2, (1)University of Nevada Reno, Reno, NV, United States, (2)University of Montana, Missoula, MT, United States, (3)North Central College, Biology, Naperville, IL, United States, (4)University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, United States, (5)Southwest Biological Science Center Moab, Moab, UT, United States, (6)University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, United States, (7)University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Appalachian Laboratory, Frostburg, MD, United States
Extensive deforestation of tropical rainforest often leads to agricultural abandonment and secondary forest regeneration. The land area of secondary rainforest is soon likely to exceed that of primary forest, highlighting the importance of secondary tropical rainforest in the global carbon (C) cycle. Secondary forests often grow rapidly, but the role soil nutrients play in regulating secondary forest productivity remains unsettled. Consistent with biogeochemical theory, a landmark study from a set of sites in the Amazon Basin showed that secondary forests had low nitrogen (N) availability and relatively higher phosphorus (P) availability immediately after abandonment, but that as succession proceeded, N availability “recuperated” and there was relatively less P available. To address whether such changes in N and P availability during secondary forest growth are common, we reviewed 38 studies in lowland tropical rainforest that reported changes in 23 different metrics of N and P cycling during secondary succession. We calculated slopes (rates of change) during secondary succession for each metric in each study, and analyzed patterns in these rates of change. Significant trends during secondary succession were more evident in soils than in plants, but in most cases, the variability among studies was surprisingly low. Both soil N and P availability increased through succession, at least in surface soil. Such consistent changes imply substantial biogeochemical resilience of tropical forest soils in spite of differing land use histories and species compositions among studies. In most cases, slopes were similar whether primary forest was included in, or excluded from, our analysis, suggesting that secondary succession eventually leads to similar biogeochemical conditions as those found in primary forest. Our results suggesting consistent changes in N and P availability during succession provide a biogeochemical rationale for the conservation and restoration value of tropical secondary forests, and may be of utility to coupled C-nutrient models projecting primary productivity in a dynamic tropical biome.