Nutrient limitation in tropical forests: what we know, what we don’t know, what we really need to know

OCTF seminar followed by drinks – all welcome

Over the last decade attention has been refocused on the role of soil nutrients, particularly soil phosphorus availability, in structuring the local and landscape composition of tropical forests, and potentially in constraining primary productivity. Jim will review the evidence from global ForestGeo plots and landscape studies in Panama that soil nutrients influence species distributions, compositional and functional beta diversity, and directly affect plant performance. He will also argue that current conceptions of functional trait spectra built primarily from temperate plant communities are inadequate to accommodate the diversity of plant adaptations and responses to phosphorus limitation, highlighting the importance of wood nutrient storage and remobilization. Finally, he will discuss the need for additional experimental work to understand how increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide will impact phosphorus limitation, growth and forest composition.

Jim completed his undergraduate degree in Botany at Oxford University in 1988 and a PhD in tropical forest ecology at Cambridge University in 1992. Since 2000 he has been a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. His current research is focused on nitrogen and phosphorus limitation in lowland and montane tropical forests, and on plant-mycorrhizal and plant-pathogen interactions affecting species coexistence and nutrient cycling.