We used a humid tropical elevation gradient to examine the relationships among climate, edaphic conditions, belowground carbon storage, and soil respiration rates. We also compared open and closed canopy sites to increase the range of microclimate conditions sampled along the gradient, and determine the effects of canopy openings on C and P storage, and C dynamics. Total soil C, the light C fraction, and all of the component fractions of the P pool were significantly related to soil moisture, and all but total soil C were also significantly related to temperature. Both labile and recalcitrant soil P fractions were negatively correlated with the light C fraction, while the dilute HCl-extractable P pool, generally thought of as intermediate in availability, was positively correlated with light C, suggesting that P may play an important role in C cycling within these systems. Total fine root biomass was greatest at 1000 m elevation and lowest at 150 m, and was strongly and positively correlated with soil moisture content. Soil respiration rates were significantly and negatively correlated with fine root biomass and the light C fraction. In forested sites, soil respiration rates were strongly and negatively correlated with total belowground C pools (soils roots forest floor). Belowground C pools did not follow the expected increasing trend with decreases in temperature along the gradient. Our results indicated that in humid tropical forests, the relationships among soil C and nutrient pools, soil respiration rates, and climate are complex. We suggest that frequent and prolonged anaerobic events could be important features of these environments that may explain the observed trends.
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