We assessed the effects of landscape features (vegetation type and topography), season, and spatial hierarchy on the nutrient content of surface soils in the Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF) of Puerto Rico. Considerable spatial variation characterized the soils of the LEF, and differences between replicate sites within each combination of vegetation type (tabonuco vs. palo colorado vs. dwarf vs. pasture) and topographic position (ridge vs valley) accounted for 11–60% of the total variation in soil properties. Nevertheless, mean soil properties differed significantly among vegetation types, between topographic positions, and between seasons (wet vs dry). Differences among vegetation types reflected soil properties (e.g., bulk density, soil moisture, Na, P, C, N, S) that typically are related to biological processes and inputs of water. In forests, differences between topographic positions reflected elements (e.g., Ca, Mg, K, and Al) that typically are associated with geochemical processes; however, the nutrients and elements responsible for topographic differences in dwarf forest were different from those in other forest types. In pastures, differences between topographic positions were associated with the same soil properties responsible for differences among the other vegetation types. Pastures also had reduced N levels and different soil characteristics compared to undisturbed tabonuco forest. The only soil parameter that differed significantly between seasons was soil moisture. Soils of the LEF do not support the contention that N becomes limiting with an increase in elevation, and suggest that absolute pool sizes of N and P are not responsible for the reduction in productivity with elevation.
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Cox, S.B., Willig, M.R. & Scatena, F.N. Variation in nutrient characteristics of surface soils from the Luquillo Experimental Forest of Puerto Rico: A multivariate perspective. Plant and Soil 247, 189–198 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021488313783
- anthropogenic disturbance
- elevational gradients
- soil variability
- topographic gradients
- tropical soils