, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 367–381 | Cite as

Large Canopy Exchange Fluxes of Inorganic and Organic Nitrogen and Preferential Retention of Nitrogen by Epiphytes in a Tropical Lowland Rainforest

  • Nina Hinko-Najera Umana
  • Wolfgang Wanek


Little is known about how tropical forest canopies interact with atmospheric nitrogen deposition and how this affects the internal nutrient dynamics and the processing of external nutrient inputs. The objectives of this study therefore were (1) to investigate gross and net canopy nitrogen (N) fluxes (retention and leaching) and (2) the effect of canopy components on net canopy N retention. Tracers were applied on detached branches in a tropical wet lowland rainforest, Costa Rica. A novel 15N pool dilution method showed that gross canopy fluxes (retention and leaching) of NO3 , NH4 +, and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) were remarkably higher than net throughfall fluxes. Gross fluxes of NH4 + and NO3 resulted in a negligible net flux whereas DON showed net uptake by the canopy. The highest quantity of 15N was recovered in epiphytic bryophytes (16.4%) although the largest biomass fraction was made up of leaves. The study demonstrates that tracer applications allow investigation of the dynamic and complex canopy exchange processes and that epiphytic communities play a major role in solute fluxes in tree canopies and therefore in the nutrient dynamics of tropical rain forests.


artificial rainfall leaching 15N pool dilution canopy retention throughfall 



We thank Dr. Stefan Arndt and Dr. Andreas Richter for their support as well as Mag. Andreas Blöchl and Mag. Margarete Watzka for their help regarding chemical analyses and their technical support at the Department of Chemical Ecology and Ecosystem Research, University of Vienna. Nina Hinko-Najera Umaña was supported by grants of the University of Vienna and the Provincial government of Lower Austria for her scientific stay and field work in Costa Rica. Furthermore we thank Dr. Anton Weissenhofer, Dr. Werner Huber, and their staff for their organizational support at the Tropical Research Station La Gamba, Costa Rica.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 14 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forest and Ecosystem ScienceThe University of MelbourneCreswickAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Chemical Ecology and Ecosystem ResearchUniversity of Vienna, Vienna Ecology CentreViennaAustria

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