Nitrification and nitrogen mineralization in a lowland rainforest succession in Costa Rica, Central America

Research paper by G. Philip Robertson

Indexed on: 01 Jan '84Published on: 01 Jan '84Published in: Oecologia


Nitrogen availability is a critical component of productivity in successional lowland rainforests, and nitrogen losses from a given system may largely depend on rates of nitrification in soils of the system. Two hypotheses were tested in a study of a 6-point secondary rainforest sere in the coastal lowlands of Costa Rica: that nitrification and N mineralization change in a directed fashion in lowland rainforest successions, and that nitrification is regulated by ammonium availability at all points along the sere. Nitrate and mineral N production were measured in short-term laboratory incubations of soils from different stages of secondary succession corresponding to 0, 3, 8, 16, 31 and 60 + years following disturbance. Results indicate that nitrification increases through the first 4 successional stages and then declines somewhat before leveling off. In soil from all sites, most of the N mineralized was nitrified, and added NH4Cl strikingly stimulated net nitrate production. Added NaH2PO4, CaCO3, and CaSO4 did not stimulate net nitrate production or did not result in a greater proportion of nitrate than in controls. These results suggest that nitrification and N mineralization may tend to increase through secondary rainforest succession and that ammonium availability along the sere regulates rates of nitrification.