Ecology

Forest Productivity

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Science  22 Mar 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5563, pp. 2179
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5563.2179c

The stature of forests on tropical mountains typically decreases with increasing altitude. Determining the interplay of ecological factors (temperature, precipitation, cloud cover, and soil nutrient availability) that cause this pattern has proved a long and complex quest. When natural circumstances control one of these variables, the task becomes more tractable. Kitayama and Aiba compared the annual net primary productivity (ANPP) and other properties of two altitudinal sequences of forest from 700 to 3100 meters on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo, growing on two substrates differing in nutrient status: sedimentary and ultrabasic rock. Litter decomposition rates and ANPP were greater on the sedimentary substrates throughout the sequence, consistent with the idea that low fertility limits these processes on ultrabasic soils. The decline of ANPP with altitude was similar on both substrates, but that of aboveground biomass was steeper on the ultrabasic soils, despite the ability of the latter to compensate by improved efficiency in nutrient use. — AMS

J. Ecol.90, 37 (2002).

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