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Nutrient dynamics on a precipitation gradient in Hawai'i

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We evaluated soil and foliar nutrients in five native forests in Hawai'i with annual rainfall ranging from 500 mm to 5500 mm. All of the sites were at the same elevation and of the same substrate age; all were native-dominated forests containing Metrosiderospolymorpha Gaud. Soil concentrations of extractable NO3-N and PO4-P, as well as major cations (Ca, Mg, and K), decreased with increasing annual precipitation, and δ15N values became more depleted in both soils and vegetation. For M.polymorpha leaves, leaf mass per area (LMA) and lignin concentrations increased significantly, while δ13C values became more depleted with increasing precipitation. Foliar phosphorus, and major cation (Ca, Mg, and K) concentrations for M.polymorpha all decreased significantly with increasing precipitation. For other native forest species, patterns of LMA, δ13C, and δ15N generally mirrored the pattern observed for M. polymorpha. Decreasing concentrations of available rock-derived nutrients in soil suggest that the effect of increased rainfall on leaching outweighs the effect of increasing precipitation on weathering. The pattern of decreased foliar nutrient concentrations per unit leaf area and of increased lignin indicates a shift from relatively high nutrient availability to relatively high carbon gain by producers as annual precipitation increases. For nitrogen cycling, the pattern of higher inorganic soil nitrogen concentrations in the drier sites, together with the progressively depleted δ15N signature in both soils and vegetation, suggests that nitrogen cycling is more open at the drier sites, with smaller losses relative to turnover as annual precipitation increases.

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Received: 24 March 1997 / Accepted: 19 September 1997

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Austin, A., Vitousek, P. Nutrient dynamics on a precipitation gradient in Hawai'i. Oecologia 113, 519–529 (1998).

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