The tree diameter growth (CDA) is a fundamental component of net primary productivity (NPP) and carbon storage in forest ecosystems; therefore, it plays a key role in mitigating global climate change. It has been hypothesized that CDA in lowland tropical rain forests is limited by the availability of soil nutrients, yet little experimental evidence is available, especially in forest of high precipitation (>5 000 mm per year). This study evaluated the effects of soil fertilization on CDA in tropical rainforests of the Colombian Pacific, one of the wettest areas of the world. Such effects were assessed at the level of localities, diametric categories, wood density, and functional groups. To do this, two arboreal inventories (2014 and 2015) were performed, five fertilization treatments (Nitrogen-N, Phosphorus-P, Potassium-K, NPK and Control) were applied, and the CDA was determined in five permanent plots of one hectare. We found that the application of N and NPK had little effect on CDA as compared to the control; while the addition of P and K produced significant reduction of the trees relative growth rate, with respect to the control at the level of localities, in small and medium sized trees, in all wood densities (low, medium and high), and in the group of dicotyledonous species. Although these results did not corroborate the hypothesis of nutrient limitation on CDA in the studied forests, it was found that during the early years of fertilization (mainly with P and K), different patterns of aboveground and belowground NPP occurred to maximize photosynthesis and soil nutrient acquisition.

Keywords: carbon balance, biogeographic Chocó, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, relative growth rate, net primary productivity.