Phosphorus (P) is a crucial element for life and therefore for maintaining ecosystem productivity. Its local availability to the terrestrial biosphere results from the interaction between climate, tectonic uplift, atmospheric transport, and biotic cycling. Here we present a mathematical model that describes the terrestrial P-cycle in a simple but comprehensive way. The resulting dynamical system can be solved analytically for steady-state conditions, allowing us to test the sensitivity of the P-availability to the key parameters and processes. Given constant inputs, we find that humid ecosystems exhibit lower P availability due to higher runoff and losses, and that tectonic uplift is a fundamental constraint. In particular, we find that in humid ecosystems the biotic cycling seem essential to maintain long-term P-availability. The time-dependent P dynamics for the Franz Josef and Hawaii chronosequences show how tectonic uplift is an important constraint on ecosystem productivity, while hydroclimatic conditions control the P-losses and speed towards steady-state. The model also helps describe how, with limited uplift and atmospheric input, as in the case of the Amazon Basin, ecosystems must rely on mechanisms that enhance P-availability and retention. Our novel model has a limited number of parameters and can be easily integrated into global climate models to provide a representation of the response of the terrestrial biosphere to global change.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Earth-Surface Processes