Ecosystem services, provided from tropical forests, are indispensable for human beings. Coherencies in the system, their networks, drivers and various underlying pathways are not completely understood yet. Elucidation on directions of key nutrients and changes in organisms delivers the opportunity to get an overview about these relations.
Leaf functional traits are one important component to uncover those cascades and organizations. With their fast respond to environmental conditions, changes can be detected. Since, tropical regions suffer from increasing atmospheric inputs of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), it is a need to investigate these progressions and predict future scenarios. The alarming fact, that these anthropogenic caused input have unknown consequences for the structure and functioning of tropical forests leads to a crucial study topic. Furthermore, questions should be answered if these increased inputs have a comparable influence on different elevations, based on identification the limiting nutrients.
To forecast these impacts the Nutrient Manipulation Experiment (NUMEX) has been conducted since 2008. It gained to show, that Neotropical montane forests respond rapidly to moderate nutrient additions of N (50 kg ha-1 yr-1) and P (10 kg ha-1 yr-1).
Within the present study, the eight most abundant tree species from the NUMEX sites were analyzed to their leaf functional traits from three elevations (altitude above sea level) in an Ecuadorian montane forest. The premontane forest in Bombuscaro (1,000 m) contains the species Clarisia racemosa and Pouteria torta. Further, in San Francisco (2,000 m), Alchornea lojaensis, Graffenrieda emarginata, Hieronyma fendleri, and Myrcia sp., were selected. In Cajanuma (3,000 m), the upper montane forest contains Hedyosmum purpurascens and Weinmannia loxensis.
The fertilization effects were calculated, using a mixed effect model, including study year and treatment as fixed effects and block and individual as random effects.
The results show, that foliar N decrease over the years, whereas, Foliar P conversely increases. Further, the relation of nitrogen and phosphorus (N:P) is decreasing during the study years. Upwards trends for ?15N are best replicated for the San Francisco site. With the leaf trait nutrient resorption efficiency (NuR) for N and P a decline over the study years is proceeding. In addition, leaf area (LA) and specific leaf area (SLA) tend to decrease. In conclusive processes over the study years might be the result of microclimatic events.
The sites differ in that San Francisco and Cajanuma respond more similar in some leaf functional traits, compared to them from Bombuscaro. It can be deduced that changes in the analyzed leaf traits over the last eight years between the sites and species are not significantly different. Summarizing, results represent the emphasis on the considerable influence of nutrient addition with notably changing foliar nutrient and show that the predicted nutrient deposition will probably change the ecosystem dynamics sustained.