Litter inputs and phosphatase activity affect the temporal variability of organic phosphorus in a tropical forest soil in the Central Amazon

Schaap, Karst J.; Fuchslueger, Lucia; Hoosbeek, Marcel R.; Hofhansl, Florian; Martins, Nathielly Pires; Valverde-Barrantes, Oscar J.; Hartley, Iain P.; Lugli, Laynara F.; Quesada, Carlos Alberto


Purpose: The tropical phosphorus cycle and its relation to soil phosphorus (P) availability are a major uncertainty in projections of forest productivity. In highly weathered soils with low P concentrations, plant and microbial communities depend on abiotic and biotic processes to acquire P. We explored the seasonality and relative importance of drivers controlling the fluctuation of common P pools via processes such as litter production and decomposition, and soil phosphatase activity. Methods: We analyzed intra-annual variation of tropical soil phosphorus pools using a modified Hedley sequential fractionation scheme. In addition, we measured litterfall, the mobilization of P from litter and soil extracellular phosphatase enzyme activity and tested their relation to fluctuations in P- fractions. Results: Our results showed clear patterns of seasonal variability of soil P fractions during the year. We found that modeled P released during litter decomposition was positively related to change in organic P fractions, while net change in organic P fractions was negatively related to phosphatase activities in the top 5 cm. Conclusion: We conclude that input of P by litter decomposition and potential soil extracellular phosphatase activity are the two main factors related to seasonal soil P fluctuations, and therefore the P economy in P impoverished soils. Organic soil P followed a clear seasonal pattern, indicating tight cycling of the nutrient, while reinforcing the importance of studying soil P as an integrated dynamic system in a tropical forest context.