, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 284–294 | Cite as

Parent Material and Topography Determine Soil Phosphorus Status in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico

  • Susanna M. Mage
  • Stephen Porder


Phosphorus (P) availability in terrestrial ecosystems depends on soil age, climate, parent material, topographic position, and biota, but the relative importance of these drivers has not been assessed. To ask which factor has the strongest influence on long- and short-timescale metrics of P availability, we sampled soils across a full-factorial combination of two parent materials [quartz diorite (QD) and volcaniclastic (VC)], three topographic positions (ridge, slope, and valley), and across 550 m in elevation in 17 sub-watersheds of the Luquillo Mountains, Puerto Rico. VC rocks had double the P content of QD (600 vs. 300 ppm; P < 0.0001), and soil P was similarly approximately 2× higher in VC-derived soils (P < 0.0001). Parent material also explained the most variance in our two other long-timescale metrics of P status: the fraction of recalcitrant P (56% variance explained) and the loss of P relative to parent material (35% variance explained), both of which were higher on VC-derived soils (P < 0.0001 for both). Topographic position explained an additional 10–15% of the variance in these metrics. In contrast, there was no parent material effect on the more labile NaHCO3- and NaOH-extractable P soil pools, which were approximately 2.5× greater in valleys than on ridges (P < 0.0001). Taken together, these data suggest that the relative importance of different state factors varies depending on the ecosystem property of interest and that parent material and topography can play sub-equal roles in driving differences in ecosystem P status across landscapes.


phosphorus parent material topography Puerto Rico state factors 



We would like to thank Fred Scatena, Art Johnson, Miguel Leon, Hao Xing, John Clark, Zhuo Wang, Joanna Karaman, and Swee Lim for their expertise and assistance in the field. Laura Schreeg, Katie Amatangelo, Harmony Lu, Whendee Silver and two anonymous reviewers provided insightful comments on a previous version of this manuscript. This work was funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation and NSF DEB 0918387 to SP, and NSF EAR 0722476 to the University of Pennsylvania.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Environmental StudiesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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