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Ecology. 2006 Mar;87(3):594-602.

Persistence of rock-derived nutrients in the wet tropical forests of La Selva, Costa Rica.

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Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305 USA.


We used strontium isotopes and analysis of foliar and soil nutrients to test whether erosion can rejuvenate the supply of rock-derived nutrients in the lowland tropical rain forest of La Selva, Costa Rica. We expected that these nutrients would be depleted from soils on stable surfaces, a result of over one million years of weathering in situ. In fact, trees and palms in all landscape positions derive a relatively high percentage (> or =40%) of their strontium from bedrock, rather than atmospheric, sources. The fraction that is rock-derived increases on slopes, but with no detectable effect on plant macronutrient concentrations. These results differ from those in a similar ecosystem on Kauai, Hawaii, where plants on uneroded surfaces derive almost all of their foliar Sr from atmospheric, rather than bedrock, sources. The results from La Selva challenge the assumption that tropical Oxisols in general have low nutrient inputs from bedrock, and support the hypothesis that erosion can increase the supply of these nutrients in lower landscape positions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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