Soils play a crucial role in biogeochemical cycles as spatially distributed sources and sinks of nutrients. Any spatial patterns depend on soil forming processes, our understanding of which is still limited, especially in regards to tropical rainforests. The objective of our study was to investigate the effects of landscape properties, with an emphasis on the geometry of the land surface, on the spatial heterogeneity of soil chemical properties, and to test the suitability of soil-landscape modeling as an appropriate technique to predict the spatial variability of exchangeable K and Mg in a humid tropical forest in Panama. We used a design-based, stratified sampling scheme to collect soil samples at 108 sites on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Stratifying variables are lithology, vegetation and topography. Topographic variables were generated from high-resolution digital elevation models with a grid size of 5 m. We took samples from five depths down to 1 m, and analyzed for total and exchangeable K and Mg. We used simple explorative data analysis techniques to elucidate the importance of lithology for soil total and exchangeable K and Mg. Classification and Regression Trees (CART) were adopted to investigate importance of topography, lithology and vegetation for the spatial distribution of exchangeable K and Mg and with the intention to develop models that regionalize the point observations using digital terrain data as explanatory variables. Our results suggest that topography and vegetation do not control the spatial distribution of the selected soil chemical properties at a landscape scale and lithology is important to some degree. Exchangeable K is distributed equally across the study area indicating that other than landscape processes, e.g. biogeochemical processes, are responsible for its spatial distribution. Lithology contributes to the spatial variation of exchangeable Mg but controlling variables could not be detected. The spatial variation of soil total K and Mg is mainly influenced by lithology. ?? 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Soil nutrient-landscape relationships in a lowland tropical rainforest in Panama