Mineral Nutrition and Soil Fertility in Tropical Rain Forests

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The work of the last 50 years has provided an impressive body of information on the nutrient stocks in tropical forests, on rates of cycling, and on properties that are peculiar to tropical forests and their soils. In contrast, extremely little is known about the extent to which forest growth is limited by mineral nutrient supply or about the nutrients that limit particular species or collections of species on particular soils. Studies in the next 50 years will be important both for applied research (increasing forest productivity and establishing new forests on deforested land) and for pure research (understanding the ways in which plants are suited to live on the variety of tropical soils). In the past, important advances in understanding have come from curiosity-driven research as well as from strongly applied research, and a plea is made for adequate support in the future for curiosity-driven research.