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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Major litterfall manipulation affects seedling growth and nutrient status in one of two species in a lowland forest in Panama

Vincent, Andrea; Tanner, Edmund V.J.


Leaf litter is an important source of nutrients to tropical forest trees, but its importance for understorey seedling growth is not well understood. Seedlings of Licania platypus (n = 190) and Coussarea curvigemmia (n = 304) were transplanted into deeply shaded forest plots in Panama having received 2 y of litter addition or removal and 7 y of fertilization with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium combined, and their growth and foliar nutrients measured after 13 and 6 mo respectively. Licania platypus growing in litter addition and removal plots had faster height growth and slower leaf growth respectively than in control plots; C. curvigemmia showed no significant effects apart from lower survival in litter addition plots. These effects may be driven by soil nutrients, as suggested by differences in foliar nitrogen and potassium (but not phosphorus) concentrations, and by a pot experiment in a shadehouse using Ochroma pyramidale seedlings, which showed higher leaf area in soils from litter-addition plots, although seedling dry weight was higher only in fertilized soils. Overall, these results show that for one of two species, understorey seedling growth was increased by 2 y of doubled litterfall, and thus that they were probably nutrient limited even in the relatively fertile soils of this semi-deciduous tropical forest.


Coussarea curvigemmia; fertilization; Gigante Peninsula; leaf-litter manipulation; Licania platypus; Ochroma pyramidale; nitrogen; phosphorus; potassium

Published in

Journal of Tropical Ecology
2013, volume: 29, number: 05, pages: 449-454

Authors' information

Vincent, Andrea
University of Cambridge
Tanner, Edmund V.J.

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


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