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Herbivory makes major contributions to ecosystem carbon and nutrient cycling in tropical forests

Metcalfe, Dan LU ; Asner, Gregory P.; Martin, Roberta E.; Silva Espejo, Javier E.; Huaraca Huasco, Walter; Farfan Amezquita, Felix F.; Carranza-Jimenez, Loreli; Galiano Cabrera, Darcy F.; Durand Baca, Liliana and Sinca, Felipe, et al. (2014) In Ecology Letters 17(3). p.324-332
Abstract
The functional role of herbivores in tropical rainforests remains poorly understood. We quantified the magnitude of, and underlying controls on, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycled by invertebrate herbivory along a 2800m elevational gradient in the tropical Andes spanning 12 degrees C mean annual temperature. We find, firstly, that leaf area loss is greater at warmer sites with lower foliar phosphorus, and secondly, that the estimated herbivore-mediated flux of foliar nitrogen and phosphorus from plants to soil via leaf area loss is similar to, or greater than, other major sources of these nutrients in tropical forests. Finally, we estimate that herbivores consume a significant portion of plant carbon, potentially causing major shifts... (More)
The functional role of herbivores in tropical rainforests remains poorly understood. We quantified the magnitude of, and underlying controls on, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycled by invertebrate herbivory along a 2800m elevational gradient in the tropical Andes spanning 12 degrees C mean annual temperature. We find, firstly, that leaf area loss is greater at warmer sites with lower foliar phosphorus, and secondly, that the estimated herbivore-mediated flux of foliar nitrogen and phosphorus from plants to soil via leaf area loss is similar to, or greater than, other major sources of these nutrients in tropical forests. Finally, we estimate that herbivores consume a significant portion of plant carbon, potentially causing major shifts in the pattern of plant and soil carbon cycling. We conclude that future shifts in herbivore abundance and activity as a result of environmental change could have major impacts on soil fertility and ecosystem carbon sequestration in tropical forests. (Less)
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@article{cc35c81f-891a-4e83-97c4-0661ae2cdf76,
  abstract     = {The functional role of herbivores in tropical rainforests remains poorly understood. We quantified the magnitude of, and underlying controls on, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycled by invertebrate herbivory along a 2800m elevational gradient in the tropical Andes spanning 12 degrees C mean annual temperature. We find, firstly, that leaf area loss is greater at warmer sites with lower foliar phosphorus, and secondly, that the estimated herbivore-mediated flux of foliar nitrogen and phosphorus from plants to soil via leaf area loss is similar to, or greater than, other major sources of these nutrients in tropical forests. Finally, we estimate that herbivores consume a significant portion of plant carbon, potentially causing major shifts in the pattern of plant and soil carbon cycling. We conclude that future shifts in herbivore abundance and activity as a result of environmental change could have major impacts on soil fertility and ecosystem carbon sequestration in tropical forests.},
  author       = {Metcalfe, Dan and Asner, Gregory P. and Martin, Roberta E. and Silva Espejo, Javier E. and Huaraca Huasco, Walter and Farfan Amezquita, Felix F. and Carranza-Jimenez, Loreli and Galiano Cabrera, Darcy F. and Durand Baca, Liliana and Sinca, Felipe and Huaraca Quispe, Lidia P. and Alzamora Taype, Ivonne and Eguiluz Mora, Luzmila and Rozas Davila, Angela and Mamani Solorzano, Marlene and Puma Vilca, Beisit L. and Laupa Roman, Judith M. and Bustios, Patricia C. Guerra and Salinas Revilla, Norma and Tupayachi, Raul and Girardin, Cecile A. J. and Doughty, Christopher E. and Malhi, Yadvinder},
  issn         = {1461-023X},
  keyword      = {Climate change,ecosystem biogeochemistry,net primary productivity,nitrogen cycle,plant-soil feedbacks,soil phosphorus,montane,rainforest},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {324--332},
  publisher    = {Wiley-Blackwell},
  series       = {Ecology Letters},
  title        = {Herbivory makes major contributions to ecosystem carbon and nutrient cycling in tropical forests},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.12233},
  volume       = {17},
  year         = {2014},
}