Species-soil associations, disturbance, and nutrient cycling in an Australian tropical rainforest

Sean Michael Gleason, Jennifer Read, Adrian Ares, Daniel J. Metcalfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Resource availability and disturbance are important factors that shape the composition, structure, and functioning of ecosystems. We investigated the effects of soil fertility and disturbance on plant-soil interactions and nutrient cycling in a diverse tropical rainforest. Our goal was to determine how common soil specialisation is among species and how plant-soil interactions affect ecosystem functioning in the presence of disturbance. Most species (59%) showed significant fidelity to either fertile (basalt) or infertile (schist) soils. Obligate schist specialists (six species) contributed 39 and 37% to total stand-level basal area and aboveground net primary productivity, respectively. High nutrient use efficiency of schist specialists reduced the rates of within-stand nutrient cycling through the production of nutrient-poor plant tissues and litter. Although forests on schist soils had higher basal area and similar rates of productivity to forests on basalt, uptake of Mg, K, P, and N were markedly less on schist than on basalt, particularly after a cyclone disturbance. Stands on schist soils were also less affected by the cyclone and, as a result, contributed less (ca. 50%) Mg, K, P, and N inputs to the forest floor (via litterfall) than stands on basalt soils. System "openness" (i. e. the risk of nutrient loss) from cyclone-affected basalt forests was minimised by high rates of uptake following disturbance and large effective cation exchange capacities of soils. Soil-plant-disturbance interactions are likely to engender different fitness-enhancing strategies on fertile and infertile soils, possibly leading to the development and/or maintenance of diversity in rainforests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1047-1058
Number of pages12
JournalOecologia
Volume162
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • Cyclone
  • Hurricane
  • Nutrient use efficiency
  • Soil specialisation
  • Tradeoff

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