Relationships among net primary productivity, nutrients and climate in tropical rain forest: A pan-tropical analysis

Cory C. Cleveland, Alan R. Townsend, Philip Taylor, Silvia Alvarez-Clare, Mercedes M.C. Bustamante, George Chuyong, Solomon Z. Dobrowski, Pauline Grierson, Kyle E. Harms, Benjamin Z. Houlton, Alison Marklein, William Parton, Stephen Porder, Sasha C. Reed, Carlos A. Sierra, Whendee L. Silver, Edmund V.J. Tanner, William R. Wieder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Tropical rain forests play a dominant role in global biosphere-atmosphere CO 2 exchange. Although climate and nutrient availability regulate net primary production (NPP) and decomposition in all terrestrial ecosystems, the nature and extent of such controls in tropical forests remain poorly resolved. We conducted a meta-analysis of carbon-nutrient-climate relationships in 113 sites across the tropical forest biome. Our analyses showed that mean annual temperature was the strongest predictor of aboveground NPP (ANPP) across all tropical forests, but this relationship was driven by distinct temperature differences between upland and lowland forests. Within lowland forests (<1000m), a regression tree analysis revealed that foliar and soil-based measurements of phosphorus (P) were the only variables that explained a significant proportion of the variation in ANPP, although the relationships were weak. However, foliar P, foliar nitrogen (N), litter decomposition rate (k), soil N and soil respiration were all directly related with total surface (0-10cm) soil P concentrations. Our analysis provides some evidence that P availability regulates NPP and other ecosystem processes in lowland tropical forests, but more importantly, underscores the need for a series of large-scale nutrient manipulations - especially in lowland forests - to elucidate the most important nutrient interactions and controls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)939-947
Number of pages9
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Carbon cycle
  • Climate
  • Decomposition
  • Meta-analysis
  • Nitrogen
  • Nutrient limitation
  • Phosphorus
  • Primary production
  • Tropical forest


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