, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 161-179

Phosphorus cycling in a Mexican tropical dry forest ecosystem

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The study was conducted in five contiguous small watersheds (12–28 ha) gauged for long-term ecosystem research. Five 80 × 30 m plots were used for the study. We quantified inputs from the atmosphere, dissolved and particulate-bound losses, throughfall and litterfall fluxes, standing crop litter and soil available P pools. Mean P input and output for a six-year period was 0.16 and 0.06 kg⋅ha−1⋅yr−1, respectively. Phosphorus concentration increased as rainfall moved through the canopy. Annual P returns in litterfall (3.88 kg/ha) represented more than 90% of the total aboveground nutrient return to the forest floor. Phosphorus concentration in standing litter (0.08%) was lower than that in litterfall (0.11%). Phosphorus content in the litterfall was higher at Chamela than at other tropical dry forests. Mean residence time on the forest floor was 1.2 yr for P and 1.3 yr for organic matter. Together these results suggest that the forest at Chamela may not be limited by P availability and suggest a balance between P immobilization and uptake. Comparison of P losses in stream water with input rates from the atmosphere for the six-year period showed that inputs were higher than outputs. Balances calculated for a wet and a dry year indicated a small P accumulation in both years.