Leaf litter inputs decrease phosphate sorption in a strongly weathered tropical soil over two time scales

Laura A. Schreeg, Michelle C. Mack, Benjamin L. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


In strongly weathered soils, leaf litter not only returns phosphorus (P) to the soil environment, it may also modify soil properties and soil solution chemistry, with the potential to decrease phosphate sorption and increase plant available P. Using a radioactive phosphate tracer (32P) and 1 h laboratory incubations we investigated the effect of litter inputs on phosphate sorption over two time scales: (1) long-term field litter manipulations (litter addition, control and litter removal) and (2) pulses of litter leachate (i. e. water extracts of leaf litter) from five species. Leachate pulse effects were compared to a simulated throughfall, which served as a control solution. Soil receiving long-term doubling of leaf litter maintained five-fold more phosphate in solution than the litter removal soil. In addition to the quantity of phosphate sorbed, the field litter addition treatment decreased the strength of phosphate sorption, as evaluated through extraction of sorbed 32P using a weakly acidic ammonium fluoride solution (Bray 1). In litter removal soil, leachate pulses significantly reduced phosphate sorption in comparison to the throughfall control for all five species evaluated. However, the ability of leachate pulses to reduce phosphate sorption decreased when soil had received field litter inputs. Across soils the effect of leachate pulses on phosphate sorption increased with net sorption of dissolved organic C, with the exception of leachate from one species that had a higher index of aromatic C concentration. These results demonstrate that litter inputs, as both long-term inputs and short-term leachate pulses, can decrease the quantity and strength of phosphate sorption, which may increase the biological availability of this key nutrient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-524
Number of pages18
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Dissolved organic carbon
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Phosphorus
  • Soil organic matter
  • Tropical forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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