, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 751–764 | Cite as

Gross Primary Productivity of a High Elevation Tropical Montane Cloud Forest

  • Martine Janet van de WegEmail author
  • Patrick Meir
  • Mat Williams
  • Cécile Girardin
  • Yadvinder Malhi
  • Javier Silva-Espejo
  • John Grace


For decades, the productivity of tropical montane cloud forests (TMCF) has been assumed to be lower than in tropical lowland forests due to nutrient limitation, lower temperatures, and frequent cloud immersion, although actual estimates of gross primary productivity (GPP) are very scarce. Here, we present the results of a process-based modeling estimate of GPP, using a soil–plant–atmosphere model, of a high elevation Peruvian TMCF. The model was parameterized with field-measured physiological and structural vegetation variables, and driven with meteorological data from the site. Modeled transpiration corroborated well with measured sap flow, and simulated GPP added up to 16.2 ± SE 1.6 Mg C ha−1 y−1. Dry season GPP was significantly lower than wet season GPP, although this difference was 17% and not caused by drought stress. The strongest environmental controls on simulated GPP were variation of photosynthetic active radiation and air temperature (T air). Their relative importance likely varies with elevation and the local prevalence of cloud cover. Photosynthetic parameters (V cmax and J max) and leaf area index were the most important non-environmental controls on GPP. We additionally compared the modeled results with a recent estimate of GPP of the same Peruvian TMCF derived by the summing of ecosystem respiration and net productivity terms, which added up to 26 Mg C ha−1 y−1. Despite the uncertainties in modeling GPP we conclude that at this altitude GPP is, conservatively estimated, 30–40% lower than in lowland rainforest and this difference is driven mostly by cooler temperatures than changes in other parameters.


SPA model sap flow diurnal photosynthesis carbon fluxes Peru Andes gross primary productivity (GPP) net primary productivity (NPP) autotrophic respiration carbon expenditure 



This study is a product of the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystems Research Group. This study was financed by a grant from the Andes-Amazon program of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, with research grants from the UK Natural Environment Research Council, a Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) geographical fieldwork grant and a scholarship from the School of Geosciences from the University of Edinburgh. We also thank the Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA) for hosting us at the Wayqecha field station and INRENA for permitting us to explore the Peruvian tropical forest. We thank Rob St John for indispensible help with the sap flow system.

Supplementary material

10021_2014_9758_MOESM1_ESM.docx (153 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 153 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martine Janet van de Weg
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Patrick Meir
    • 2
    • 3
  • Mat Williams
    • 4
  • Cécile Girardin
    • 5
  • Yadvinder Malhi
    • 5
  • Javier Silva-Espejo
    • 6
  • John Grace
    • 3
  1. 1.Amsterdam Global Change InstituteVrije Universiteit AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.School of GeosciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  3. 3.Research School of BiologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.School of GeosciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  5. 5.Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the EnvironmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  6. 6.Universidad San Antonio Abad del CuscoCuzcoPeru

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