, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 131–143 | Cite as

Soluble Reactive Phosphorus Transport and Retention in Tropical, Rainforest Streams Draining a Volcanic and Geothermally Active Landscape in Costa Rica. : Long-Term Concentration Patterns, Pore Water Environment and Response to ENSO Events

  • Frank J. TriskaEmail author
  • Catherine M. Pringle
  • John H. Duff
  • Ronald J. Avanzino
  • Alonso Ramirez
  • Marcelo Ardon
  • Alan P. Jackman
Original Paper


Soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) transport/retention was determined at four sites in three rainforest streams draining La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. La Selva is located at the base of the last remaining intact rainforest transect from 30 m above sea level to 3000 m along the entire Caribbean slope of Central America. Steam SRP levels can be naturally high there due to regional, geothermal groundwater discharged at ambient temperature. Monitoring since 1988 has revealed distinctive long-term differences in background SRP and total P (TP) for three streams in close proximity, and identified the impact of ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) events on SRP-enriched reaches. Mean interannual SRP concentrations (± standard deviation) were 89 ± 53µg/l in the Salto (1988–1996), 21 ± 39µg/l in the Pantano (1988–1998), and 26 ± 35µg/l in the Sabalo (1988–1996). After January, 1997 the separate upland-lowland contributions to discharge and SRP load were determined monthly in the Salto. SRP in Upper Salto was low (19 ± 8µg/l, 1997–2002) until enriched at␣the upland-lowland transition by regional groundwater. Mean SRP concentration in Lower␣Salto (108 ± 104µg/l) was typically highest February–April, the driest months, and lowest July–September, the wettest. SRP concentration was positively correlated to the inverse of discharge in Lower Salto when ENSO data were omitted (1992 and 1998–1999), but not in the Upper Salto, Pantano, or Sabalo. TP was positively correlated to the inverse of discharge in all three streams when ENSO data were omitted. High SRP springs and seeps along the Lower Salto contributed 36% of discharge but 85% of SRP export 1997–2001. Annual SRP flux from the total Salto watershed (1997–2001) averaged 2.9 kg/ha year, but only 0.6 kg/ha year from the Upper Salto. A dye tracer injection showed that pore water environments were distinctly different between Upper and Lower Salto. Upper Salto had high surface water–pore water exchange, high dissolved oxygen, low SRP, and low conductivity similar to surface water, and Lower Salto had low surface water–pore water exchange, low dissolved oxygen, high SRP, and high conductivity reflecting geothermal groundwater influence. SRP export from the Salto was controlled by regional groundwater transfer, which in similar volcanic settings could be a significant P source. However, ENSO events modified the SRP concentration in the Salto suggesting that long-term monitoring is required to understand underlying SRP dynamics and P flux to downstream communities.

Key words

Phosphorus Retention Sorption SRP Streams Tropical TP Transport Volcanic ENSO 


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The authors gratefully acknowledge support from National Science Foundation grants DEB 95-28434 and DEB 00-75349, and from the National Research Program, Water Resources, U.S. Geological Survey. We also acknowledge the field assistance of Minor Hildago, La Selva Biological Station.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank J. Triska
    • 1
    Email author
  • Catherine M. Pringle
    • 2
  • John H. Duff
    • 1
  • Ronald J. Avanzino
    • 1
  • Alonso Ramirez
    • 4
  • Marcelo Ardon
    • 2
  • Alan P. Jackman
    • 3
  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveyMenlo ParkUSA
  2. 2.Institute of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  4. 4.Institute for Tropical System StudiesUniversity of Puerto RicoSan JuanUSA

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