, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 223–235

Phosphorus limitation of forest leaf area and net primary production on a highly weathered soil

  • Darrell A. Herbert
  • James H. Fownes

DOI: 10.1007/BF02186049

Cite this article as:
Herbert, D.A. & Fownes, J.H. Biogeochemistry (1995) 29: 223. doi:10.1007/BF02186049


We tested the hypothesis that P was the nutrient limiting net primary production of a nativeMetrosideros polymorpha forest on a highly weathered montane tropical soil in Hawaii. A factorial experiment used all combinations of three fertilizer treatments: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and a mix of other essential nutrients (OE), consisting primarily of mineral derived cations and excluding N and P. P addition, but not N or OE, increased leaf area index within 12 months, foliar P concentration measured at 18 months, and stem diameter increment within 18 months. Stem growth at 18 months was even greater when trees fertilized with P also received the OE treatment. N and P additions increased leaf litterfall and N and P in combination further increased litterfall. The sequence of responses suggests that increased available P promoted an increase in photosynthetic area which led to increased wood production. P was the essential element most limiting to primary production on old volcanic soil in contrast to the N limitation found on young volcanic soils.

Key words

chronosequencemontane tropical forestnitrogennutrient limitationphosphorusproductivity

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Darrell A. Herbert
    • 1
  • James H. Fownes
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agronomy and Soil ScienceUniversity of HawaiiHonolulu