A large-scale study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and eight other institutions sheds some light on the issue. It indicates that nutrients in the soil can strongly influence the distribution of trees in tropical forests.
The finding, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, challenges the theory that at local scales tree distributions in a forest simply reflect patterns of seed dispersal, said James W. Dalling, a U. of I. professor of plant biology and a principal researcher on the study.
The study evaluated three sites: two lowland forests, in central Panama and eastern Ecuador, and a mountain forest in southern Colombia. The researchers plotted every tree and mapped the distribution of soil nutrients on a total of 100 hectares (247 acres) at the sites. The study included 1,400 tree species and more than 500,000 trees.
The researchers compared distribution maps of 10 essential plant nutrients in the soils to species maps of all trees more than 1 centimeter in diameter. Each of the sites was very different, but at each the researchers found evidence that soil composition significantly influenced where certain tree species grew: The spatial distributions of 36 to 51 percent of the tree species showed strong associations with soil nutrient distributions.Prior to the study, the researchers had expected to see some influence of soil nutrients on forest composition, but the results were more pronounced than anticipated.
“Differences in nutrient requirements among trees may help explain how so many species can coexist.”
Although plants in temperate forests influence the soils around them (through the uptake of nutrients, decomposition of leaf litter on the forest floor and through root exudates), in tropical forests local neighborhoods contain so many species that the ability of individual species to influence soil properties is likely to be small.
“We interpret these plant-soil associations as directional responses of plants to variation in soil properties,” the researchers wrote.
The team also found that certain soil nutrients that previously had not been considered important to plant growth in tropical forests had measurable effects on species distributions.
At the site in Ecuador, calcium and magnesium had the strongest effects. In the Panamanian forest, boron and potassium were the most influential nutrients assayed. And in the Colombian mountain forest, potassium, phosphorous, iron and nitrogen, in that order, showed the strongest effects on the distribution of trees.
“There are all kinds of minerals out there that plants seem to be responding to that we didn’t think were likely to be important,” Dalling said. Further studies are needed, he said, to evaluate these influences in more detail.
The other principal investigators on the study are Robert John, a post-doctoral researcher in the U. of I. department of plant biology; Kyle E. Harms, Louisiana State University; Joseph B. Yavitt, Cornell University; and Robert F. Stallard of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Researchers on the study also are affiliated with Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama; the University of Georgia; Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador; Instituto Alexander von Humboldt, Colombia; and the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago.
Editor’s note: To reach James W. Dalling in Panama, call 011-507-314-9311; e-mail: email@example.com.
Diana Yates | EurekAlert!
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences