, Volume 215, Issue 9, pp 963-975
Date: 16 May 2014

Nutrient resorption in tropical savanna forests and woodlands of central Brazil

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Abstract

Nutrient limitation in Brazilian savanna (known as cerrado) presumably causes trees to maximize nutrient resorption from senesced leaves to reduce their dependence on nutrient availability. To assess patterns between nutrient resorption and soil fertility, we measured community-level nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) concentrations in mature and senesced leaves and soil fertility in the upper 50 cm soil layer in structurally diverse cerrado ecosystems in the Cuiaba Basin (CB) and Pantanal (PAN) of Mato Grosso, Brazil. Foliar nutrient concentration data were used to estimate resorption efficiency and proficiency, and correlation was used to determine whether resorption efficiency and proficiency varied across soil fertility gradients. We found that N and P resorption proficiency (NRP and PRP, respectively) and P resorption efficiency (PRE) increased significantly as total soil N (NRP) and extractable P (PRP and PRE) declined. In contrast, K resorption efficiency (KRE) declined as soil sand content and bulk density increased, which was likely due to a reduction in soil water-holding capacity. Leaf N/P ratios indicate potential N limitation and/or N + P co-limitation for ecosystems in the PAN and P limitation and/or N + P co-limitation for ecosystems in the CB, while trends in leaf N/K ratios indicate possible K or K + P co-limitation for the CB only. Our results illustrate that cerrado forests and woodlands have highly variable nutrient resorption capacities that vary predictably across soil fertility or textural gradients and indicate that cerrado communities have flexible nutrient resorption that can reduce their dependence on soil nutrient availability.

Communicated by Benjamin Turner.