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Quantifying components of the phosphorus cycle in temperate forests

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We review the state‐of‐the‐art of cross‐disciplinary knowledge on phosphorus (P) cycling in temperate forest ecosystems, focused at studies from hydrology, biology, biogeochemistry, soil‐, and geosciences. Changes in soil P stocks during long‐term ecosystem development are addressed briefly; the general ranges of specific P pools and P fluxes within the ecosystem and the presumed underlying processes are covered more in depth. Wherever possible, we differentiate between coniferous and deciduous forests. As the most important P pools, mineral soil, forest floor, vegetation, and microbial biomass are described in terms of pool size, molecular composition, and turnover. Litterfall, soil water seepage, atmospheric deposition, and biotic uptake as the most studied P fluxes in the forest ecosystem are discussed in detail, spotlighting biogeochemical processes relevant for mobilization and retention of P in the rooting zone. Through a meta‐analysis of available literature, we build a dataset that allows the quantification of major P‐cycle components in temperate forests in terms of range and distribution, highlighting similarities and differences between coniferous and deciduous forests. The two forest types are notably distinct in their distribution of P within compartments of the plant biomass and forest floor. The possibility to construct closed local P balances is often hindered by missing information on fluxes of dissolved and particulate P across the ecosystem boundary, be it in the atmosphere, soil, or on the surface. These fluxes are irregular in space and time and feature large overall mass fluxes but comparatively small P fluxes, making the latter one difficult to quantify.

The Phosphorus cycle in temperate forests. Representations of pools and fluxes are scaled to their average size. See also Appendix 1 for a full list of the data sources used for the scaling and Figures and for a more detailed visualization.
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Changes in P concentration (a) and mass flux (b) during canopy passage in temperate forests. See Appendix 1 for a full list of the used data sources.
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Ranges of phosphorus fluxes (a,b,c) and concentrations (d,e,f) in deciduous and coniferous temperate forests. No differentiation between the two forest types was possible in subplots c and f. N = sample size, mean = arithmetic mean, SD = one standard deviation, sig. = significance of difference between conifers and deciduous forests according to students t‐test, n.s. = not significant, * = p < .05, ** = p < .005, *** = p < .0005, symbols ‘<>’ indicate direction of difference. See Appendix 1 for a full list of the data sources used.
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Relationship of P concentration from fresh foliage to senescent foliage (a) and relationship between total P in fresh foliage and total P in litterfall (b). See Appendix 1 for a full list of the data sources used.
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Ranges of phosphorus pool sizes (a) and concentrations (b) in deciduous and coniferous temperate forests, with N = sample size, mean = arithmetic mean, SD = standard deviation, sig. = significance of difference between conifers and deciduous forests according to students t‐test, n.s. = not significant, * = p < .05, ** = p < .005, *** = p < .0005, symbols ‘<>’ indicate direction of difference. See also Appendix 1 for a full list of the used data sources.
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