Atmospheric deposition of elements and its relevance for nutrient budgets of tropical forests

Atmospheric deposition is an important component of the nutrient cycles of terrestrial ecosystems, but field measurements are especially scarce in tropical regions. In this study we analysed 15 months of precipitation chemistry collected in an old growth tropical forest located in French Guiana. We measured nutrient inputs via bulk precipitation and throughfall and used the canopy budget model to estimate nutrient fluxes via canopy exchange and dry deposition. Based on this method we quantified net fluxes of macronutrients and compared their contribution to internal cycling rates via litterfall. Our results suggest that while atmospheric deposition of nitrogen was relatively high (13 kg ha−1 year−1), and mainly in organic forms, the N inputs via litterfall were an order of magnitude higher. In contrast to nitrogen, we found that atmospheric deposition of phosphorus (0.5 kg ha−1 year−1) supplied up to one third of the annual litterfall input to the forest floor. Most strikingly, combined annual inputs of potassium via atmospheric deposition (14 kg ha−1 year−1) and canopy leaching (22 kg ha−1 year−1) were three times larger than internal nutrient recycling via litterfall (11 kg ha−1 year−1). We conclude that atmospheric deposition of phosphorus and especially potassium may play an important role in sustaining the productivity of this old-growth tropical rainforest.


Throughfall, Litterfall, Nutrient cycling, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium

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Van Langenhove Leandro, Verryckt Lore T., Bréchet Laëtitia, Courtois Elodie A., Stahl Clement, Hofhansl Florian, Bauters Marijn, Sardans Jordi, Boeckx Pascal, Fransen Erik, Peñuelas Josep, Janssens Ivan A. (2020). Atmospheric deposition of elements and its relevance for nutrient budgets of tropical forests. Biogeochemistry. 149 (2). 175-193.,

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