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Tropical Forests & Global Environmental Change

Tropical forests are diverse, highly productive, and exchange more carbon (C) and energy than any other ecosystem type. Global frogenvironmental change is affecting aboveground processes in tropical forests in many ways but such responses are tightly coupled to belowground processes. However, many of the factors that regulate belowground processes in these ecosystems remain poorly understood, confounding our understanding of they are likely to respond to global change.

In collaboration with researchers at the University of Colorado, I am using several different experimental manipulations to investigate carbon (C) and nutrient cycling in an extremely wet (>5000 mm rainfall / year), primary Pacific lowland tropical rain forest on the Osa Peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica (map below). The sites are located on a private reserve near Drake Bay in the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve. At this site, we have established a long-term fertilization experiment (+N, +P, +NP and control), and are using the plots (fertilized since 2000) to investigate how changes in soil nutrient availability affect soil C, N and P cycling in these nutrient-poor tropical (Ultisol) soils. Our recent data suggest that many ecosystem processes, including C decomposition and N fixation, are strongly P limited, and that increases in soil P availability drive more rapid decomposition of organic matter in these sites. We continue to investigate the long-term effects of fertilization and natural variations in soil fertility on soil processes and foliar nutrient chemistry, and are beginning to study how changes in nutrient availability alter soil microbial community structure. Additional work focuses on the biogeochemical and microbiological effects deforestation and land use change.

Our previous research also shows the importance of precipitation in regulating decomposition and nutrient cycling in tropical forests, and that variations in precipitation may have profound effects on biogeochemical cycling in these ecosystems. In contrast to some research showing that high rates oexclosuref precipitation in tropical rain forest may lead to decreases in decomposition rates, rates of decomposition in our sites are among the highest reported in the literature. Thus, to test the effects of precipitation on soil C and nutrient cycling, we have begun a precipitation manipulation experiment by establishing a set of plots where annual rainfall is reduced by 50%. Our data will expand an important dataset on how climate change in tropical forests regulates organic matter decomposition and soil biogeochemical cycling.

canopyIn addition to investigating how changes in rainfall may alter soil C fluxes and nutrient cycles, we are also interested in how soil microbial communities respond to decreased precipitation, and how variations in soil microbial community structure are linked to changes in the rates of important processes. For more on this work, click HERE.

 

 



For questions about the research we do, or for information about opportunities in the lab, please contact me directly.

Cory Cleveland, Associate Professor
Department of Ecosystem & Conservation Sciences
College of Forestry & Conservation
CHCB 423/32 Campus Drive
University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812

Phone: 406-243-6018 | Fax: 406-243-6656
Email: cory.cleveland@umontana.edu |