Attempts to accelerate reforestation in tropical montane forests have been ineffective. One of the greatest obstacles to reforestation is the restoration of depleted nutrient capital to facilitate forest growth. A natural source of allochthonous nutrients was sought to enhance the soil nutrient budget of the secondary forest and facilitate plant growth. Epiphytes catalyze the deposition of allochthonous nutrients in the primary forest where they are abundant. In secondary forests, epiphyte abundance is severely diminished due to inhospitable canopy structure. This study compared the plant-availability of nitrate, phosphate, and potassium in soil and precipitation under a primary forest, mid-succession secondary forest, and recently abandoned pasture near Monteverde, Costa Rica. It was expected that soil and throughfall nutrient concentration decreases from the primary forest, to the secondary forest, to the pasture. Soil nitrate and phosphate concentrations were greatest in the primary forest and lowest in the secondary forest. Soil potassium concentration was equivalent in primary and secondary forest soil but higher in the pasture due to previous inputs from cattle excreta. No statistically significant difference in throughfall concentration was observed for nitrate or phosphate between any sites. Potassium concentration in throughfall was significantly higher in forest sites than the pasture. Epiphytes perform substantial ecosystem functions and recruit allochthonous nutrients that increase the total nutrient pool but throughfall may not be a significant nutrient transport mechanism.
"Understanding Tropical Montane Reforestation: A Comparison of Soil and Throughfall Nutrients in Primary and Secondary Forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica,"
Rollins Undergraduate Research Journal: Vol. 2
, Article 11.
Available at: http://scholarship.rollins.edu/rurj/vol2/iss1/11