Articles | Volume 6, issue 12
11 Dec 2009
 | 11 Dec 2009

Chronic nitrogen addition causes a reduction in soil carbon dioxide efflux during the high stem-growth period in a tropical montane forest but no response from a tropical lowland forest on a decadal time scale

B. Koehler, M. D. Corre, E. Veldkamp, and J. P. Sueta

Abstract. Atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition is rapidly increasing in tropical regions. We studied the response of soil carbon dioxide (CO2) efflux to long-term experimental N addition (125 kg N ha−1 yr−1) in mature lowland and montane forests in Panama. In the lowland forest, on soils with high nutrient-supplying and buffering capacity, fine litterfall and stem-growth were neither N- nor phosphorus-limited. In the montane forest, on soils with low nutrient supplying capacity and an organic layer, fine litterfall and stem-growth were N-limited. Our objectives were to 1) explore the influence of soil temperature and moisture on the dynamics of soil CO2 efflux and 2) determine the responses of soil CO2 efflux from an N-rich and N-limited forest to elevated N input. Annual soil CO2-C efflux was larger in the lowland (15.44 ± 1.02 Mg C ha−1) than in the montane forest (9.37 ± 0.28 Mg C ha−1). In the lowland forest, soil moisture explained the largest fraction of the variance in soil CO2 efflux while soil temperature was the main explanatory variable in the montane forest. Soil CO2 efflux in the lowland forest did not differ between the control and 9–11 yr N-addition plots, suggesting that chronic N input to nutrient-rich tropical lowland forests on well-buffered soils may not change their C balance on a decadal time scale. In the montane forest, first year N addition did not affect soil CO2 efflux but annual CO2 efflux was reduced by 14% and 8% in the 2nd and 3rd year N-addition plots, respectively, compared to the control. This reduction was caused by a decrease in soil CO2 efflux during the high stem-growth period of the year, suggesting a shift in carbon partitioning from below- to aboveground in the N-addition plots in which stem diameter growth was promoted.

Final-revised paper