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The role of phosphorus dynamics in tropical forests – a modeling study using CLM-CNP

Author(s): X. Yang | P. E. Thornton | D. M. Ricciuto | W. M. Post

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 10;
Issue: 8;
Start page: 14439;
Date: 2013;
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Tropical forests play a significant role in the global carbon cycle and global climate. However, tropical carbon cycling and the feedbacks from tropical ecosystems to the climate system remain critical uncertainties in current generation carbon-climate models. One of the major uncertainties comes from the lack of representation of phosphorus (P), the most limiting nutrient in tropical regions. Here we introduce P dynamics and C–N–P interactions into the CLM4-CN model and investigate the role of P cycling in controlling the productivity of tropical ecosystems. The newly developed CLM-CNP model includes all major biological and geochemical processes controlling P availability in soils and the interactions between C, N, and P cycles. Model simulations at sites along a Hawaiian soil chronosequence indicate that the introduction of P limitation greatly improved the model performance at the P-limited site. The model is also able to capture the shift in nutrient limitation along this chronosequence (from N limited to P limited), as shown in the comparison of model simulated plant responses to fertilization with the observed data. Model simulations at Amazonian forest sites show that CLM-CNP is capable of capturing the overall trend in NPP along the P availability gradient. This comparison also suggests a significant interaction between nutrient limitation and land use history. Model experiments under elevated atmospheric CO2 ([CO2]) condition suggest that tropical forest responses to increasing [CO2] will interact strongly with changes in the P cycle. We highlight the importance of two feedback pathways (biochemical mineralization and desorption of secondary mineral P) that can significantly affect P availability and determine the extent of P limitation in tropical forests under elevated [CO2]. Field experiments with elevated CO2 are therefore needed to help quantify these important feedbacks. Predictive modeling of C–P interactions will have important implications for the prediction of future carbon uptake and storage in tropical ecosystems and global climate change.
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