Influence of precipitation on soil and foliar nutrients across nine costa rican forests

Silvia Alvarez-Clare, Michelle C. Mack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


We explored patterns of soil and foliar nutrients across nine mature forest sites in Costa Rica, where mean annual precipitation (MAP) ranged between 3500 and 5500mm, altitude ranged between 200 and 1200m, and species composition varied among sites. Our objective was to investigate the relationship between rainfall and plant or soil nutrient characteristics to better understand the potential long-term effects that alterations in MAP could have on the nutrient dynamics of wet forest plant communities. Indicators of soil N availability (net mineralization and nitrification) decreased with MAP but were not related to foliar N. Soil and foliar P, by contrast, were not correlated with MAP but were positively correlated with each other. Thus, across our gradient foliar P was a better predictor of soil nutrient availability than foliar N. There were wide differences in foliar nutrient concentrations and N:P ratios among species within sites. At each site, legumes had higher mean percent N than nonlegumes, resulting in higher N:P ratios for legumes. Taken together, these data suggest that, at least in these forests, a climate-driven decrease in MAP could cause an increase in net N mineralization and nitrification for the wetter sites. However, this may not affect productivity at the community level because of low P availability, complex feedbacks between soil and foliar nutrients, and interactions with other biological and environmental factors such as elevation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-441
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon-13
  • Mean annual precipitation
  • N:P ratios
  • Nitrogen-15
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Precipitation gradient
  • Tropical wet forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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