Climate impacts on soil carbon processes along an elevation gradient in the tropical Luquillo Experimental Forest
Tropical forests play an important role in regulating the global climate and the carbon cycle. With the changing temperature and moisture along the elevation gradient, the Luquillo Experimental Forest in Northeastern Puerto Rico provides a natural approach to understand tropical forest ecosystems under climate change. In this study, we conducted a soil translocation experiment along an elevation gradient with decreasing temperature but increasing moisture to study the impacts of climate change on soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil respiration. As the results showed, both soil carbon and the respiration rate were impacted by microclimate changes. The soils translocated from low elevation to high elevation showed an increased respiration rate with decreased SOC content at the end of the experiment, which indicated that the increased soil moisture and altered soil microbes might affect respiration rates. The soils translocated from high elevation to low elevation also showed an increased respiration rate with reduced SOC at the end of the experiment, indicating that increased temperature at low elevation enhanced decomposition rates. Temperature and initial soil source quality impacted soil respiration significantly. With the predicted warming climate in the Caribbean, these tropical soils at high elevations are at risk of releasing sequestered carbon into the atmosphere.