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Forests 2017, 8(6), 182; doi:10.3390/f8060182

Substrate Chemistry and Rainfall Regime Regulate Elemental Composition of Tree Leaves in Karst Forests

1
International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF), USDA Forest Service, Rio Piedras 00926-1115, Puerto Rico
2
Centro de Ecología, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, Altos de Pipe 1020A, Venezuela
3
Departmento de Biología, Universidad de Puerto Rico, San Juan 00926; Puerto Rico
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Timothy A. Martin
Received: 15 April 2017 / Revised: 13 May 2017 / Accepted: 20 May 2017 / Published: 25 May 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tropical Forest Ecology and Management for the Anthropocene)
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Abstract

Forests on calcareous substrates constitute a large fraction of the vegetation in Puerto Rico. Plant growth on these substrates may be affected by nutrient deficiencies, mainly P and Fe, resulting from high pH and formation of insoluble compounds of these elements. The occurrence of these forests in humid and dry areas provides an opportunity to compare nutrient relations, water use efficiency, and N dynamics, using biogeochemical parameters. We selected sites under humid climate in the north, and dry climate in the southwest of Puerto Rico. Adult, healthy leaves of species with high importance values were collected at each site and analyzed for their elemental composition and the natural abundance of C and N isotopes. Calcium was the dominant cation in leaf tissues, explaining over 70% of the ash content variation, and Al and Ca concentration were positively correlated, excepting only two Al-accumulating species. Karst vegetation consistently showed high N/P ratios comparable to forests on P-poor soils. Dry karst sites had significantly higher δ13C and δ15N ratios. We conclude that forests on karst are mainly limited by P availability, and that mechanisms of nutrient uptake in the rhizosphere lead to linear correlations in the uptake of Ca and Al. Isotope ratios indicate higher water use efficiency, and predominant denitrification in dry karst forest sites. View Full-Text
Keywords: tropical karst; element concentration; N/P ratios; Ca/Al relationship; δ13C; δ15N tropical karst; element concentration; N/P ratios; Ca/Al relationship; δ13C; δ15N
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Medina, E.; Cuevas, E.; Lugo, A.E. Substrate Chemistry and Rainfall Regime Regulate Elemental Composition of Tree Leaves in Karst Forests. Forests 2017, 8, 182.

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