Sodium shortage as a constraint on the carbon cycle in an inland tropical rainforest — PNAS

Sodium shortage as a constraint on the carbon cycle in an inland tropical rainforest — PNAS.

Posted by Jim:

Here’s another neat one, this time from Mike Kaspari’s group.  They show that fertilization of tropical detritus and such with sodium (Na) greatly stimulates its break-down.  It also stimulated the abundance of termites and ants.  Importantly, the stimulation effects was observed when Na was added as NaCl and as NaPO4, a cautionary tale to be careful with experimental controls when testing for P-limitation!  It would be easy to misinterpret a response to a NaPO4 enrichment as a response to P if you didn’t have an appropriate sodium control.  This is a very neat story, as the authors point out that plants have little use for Na (they generally use K for similar purposes in intracellular buffering and signalling) but heterotrophs do, including bacteria and animals.  Thus, fundamental stoichiometric imbalance at the plant-“consumer” interface arises in various ways, not just because of the generally high C:nutrient ratios of plant biomass compared to animal biomass.

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