Cite as:
Rehmus, A. (2015): <b>Aluminum toxicity in a tropical montane forest ecosystem in southern Ecuador</b> University of Berne, <i>phd thesis</i>

Resource Description

Title: Aluminum toxicity in a tropical montane forest ecosystem in southern Ecuador
FOR816dw ID: 1322
Publication Date: 2015-02-23
License and Usage Rights: PAK 823-825 data user agreement. (
Resource Owner(s):
Individual: Agnes Rehmus
Aluminum phytotoxicity frequently occurs in acid soils (pH < 5.5) and was therefore discussed to affect ecosystem functioning of tropical montane forests. The susceptibility to Al toxicity depends on the sensitivity of the plant species and the Al speciation in soil solution, which can vary highly depending e.g., on pH, ionic strength, and dissolved organic matter. An acidification of the ecosystem and periodic base metal deposition from Saharan dust may control plant available Al concentrations in the soil solutions<br/> of tropical montane rainforests in south Ecuador. The overall objective of my study was to assess a potential Al phytotoxicity in the tropical montane forests in south Ecuador. For this purpose, I exposed three native Al non-accumulating tree species (Cedrela odorata L., Heliocarpus americanus L., and Tabebuia chrysantha (Jacq.) G. Nicholson) to increased Al concentrations (0 – 2400 ?M Al) in a hydroponic experiment, I established dose-response curves to estimate the sensitivity of the tree species to increased Al concentrations, and I investigated the mechanisms behind the observed effects induced by elevated Al concentrations. Furthermore, the response of Al concentrations and the speciation in soil solution to Ca amendment in the study area were determined. In a final step, I assessed all major Al fluxes, drivers of Al concentrations in ecosystem solutions, and indicators of Al toxicity in the tropical montane rainforest in Ecuador in order to test for indications of Al toxicity. In the hydroponic experiment, a 10 % reduction in aboveground biomass production occurred at 126 to 376 ?M Al (EC10 values), probably attributable to decreased Mg concentrations in leaves and reduced potosynthesis. At 300 ?M Al, increased root biomass production of T. chrysantha was observed. Phosphorus concentrations in roots of C. odorata and T. chrysantha were significantly highest in the treatment with 300 ?M Al and correlated significantly with root biomass, being a likely reason for stimulated root biomass production. The degree of organic complexation of Al in the organic layer leachate, which is central to plant nutrition because of the high root density, and soil solution from the study area was very high (mean > 99 %). The resulting low free Al concentrations are not likely to affect plant growth, although the concentrations of potentially toxic<br/> Al3+ increased with soil depth due to higher total Al and lower dissolved organic matter concentrations in soil solutions. The Ca additions caused an increase of Al in the organic layer leachate, probably because Al3+ was exchanged against the added Ca2+ ions while pH remained constant. The free ion molar ratios of Ca2+:Al3+ (mean ratio ca. 400) were far above the threshold (smaller than 1) for Al toxicity, because of a much higher degree of organo-complexation of Al than Ca. High Al fluxes in litterfall (8.8 – 14.2 kg ha?1 yr?1) indicate a high Al circulation through the ecosystem. The Al concentrations in the organic layer leachate were driven by the acidification of the ecosystem and increased significantly between 1999 and 2008. However, the Ca:Al molar ratios in organic layer leachate and all aboveground ecosystem solutions were above the threshold for Al toxicity. Except for two Al accumulating and one non-accumulating tree species, the Ca:Al molar ratios in tree leaves from the study area were above the Al toxicity threshold of 12.5. I conclude that toxic effects in the hydroponic experiment occurred at Al concentrations far above those in native organic layer leachate, shoot biomass production was likely inhibited by reduced Mg uptake, impairing photosynthesis, and the stimulation of root growth at low Al concentrations can be possibly attributed to improved P uptake. Dissolved organic matter in soil solutions detoxifies Al in acidic tropical forest soils and a wide distribution of Al accumulating tree species and high Al fluxes in the ecosystem do not necessarily imply a general Al phytotoxicity.
| tropical tree seedlings | Al toxicity | Al cycling | Hydroponic growth experiment | plant nutrition | hormesis | Al speciation in solution | Ca:Al ratios | Mg:Al ratios | base saturation |
Literature type specific fields:
Degree: phd
Degree Institution: University of Berne
Total Pages: 148
Metadata Provider:
Individual: Wolfgang Wilcke
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