Silicon cycled by tropical forest trees: effects of species, elevation and parent material on Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia
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We aimed to compare uptake and litter flux of silicon (Si) across tropical tree species and sites on Mt. Kinabalu, Borneo.
Si flux components were measured at eight plots in tropical forests at four altitudes (700–3,100 m above sea level) on two types of parent materials (acidic sedimentary/granite rock and ultramafic igneous rock, paired at each elevation).
Leaf Si concentration differed substantially among tree species (0.24–13.6 mg g−1). Species with high leaf Si concentrations occurred mostly in the lowest elevation plots on both parent materials. The abundance-weighted community means of live-leaf Si concentrations, as well as Si concentration in leaf litter, declined with increasing elevation. Annual leaf-litter Si flux and water extractable Si per unit air-dried soil also decreased with increasing elevation, whereas parent material type had little influence despite consistently higher pH by 0.5–1.0 unit in ultramafic soil.
Si uptake and litter Si flux were greater in lower elevation forests regardless of parent material types, most likely because Si accumulating species are more abundant in lowland tropical forests. These results suggest a stronger role of biota than the geochemistry of parent material and rock weathering in Si cycling in the forests on Mt. Kinabalu.
KeywordsBiogenic silica Borneo Ecosystem silicon cycling Elevational gradient Parent material Tropical montane forest
This research was supported by the grants 26650163, 22255002 and 26660051 from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. We thank the Sabah Parks for permission and logistic support for research on Mt. Kinabalu. Soil import followed the regulations specified by a permit issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery in Japan. We also thank Joseph Phillips for English language editing and Yusuke Onoda for pre-submission review.
K. Kitajima conceived the ideas; K. Kitajima, K. Kitayama and R. Nakamura designed methodology; R. Wagai, S. Suzuki and K. Kitayama collected samples; R. Nakamura and H. Ishizawa performed the chemical analyses; K. Kitayama and R. Wagai provided critical information on the forest monitoring plots on Mt. Kinabalu; R. Nakamura and K. Kitajima led data analyses; R. Nakamura wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.
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