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Rainforest – Outputs


The conceptual models were compiled by researchers in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders from Natural Resource Management groups, universities and government agencies and based on available scientific information[1].

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Most of the N within a rainforest is recycled within it and little is exported[6]. Outputs of N from rainforests are mainly the release of gaseous nitrogen through denitrification and N2O production, and the export of DON and litter.



Denitrification is higher in wetter rainforests, and will cause the release of gaseous N[5].

N2O production

Export of nitrogen as N2O is likely to occur as a result of incomplete denitrification and nitrification. Less than 0.2% of denitrified N is converted to N2O[4]. N2O emissions are higher in mature forests compared to secondary forests[3].


Vegetation litter and dissolved N export

Litterfall in rainforest areas of the Great Barrier Reef has maximum values (44% of the total) falling in the spring and minimum in the winter[1]. Most of the litterfall is recycled within the rainforest[6], but some of it is exported to streams and waterways with values of approximately 9.8 (0-50) g/ha/day*[1]. Small amounts of N as dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) or litter from rainforests can be leached[2].

*Nitrogen quantities are displayed as an average followed by a minimum and maximum (range), e.g. “average (min. of range - max. of range) units”.


  1. ^ a b Benson, LJ & Pearson, RG (1993), 'Litter inputs to a tropical Australian rainforest stream', Australian Journal of Ecology, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 377-383.
  2. ^ Brookshire, ENJ, Hedin, LO, Newbold, JD, Sigman, DM & Jackson, JK (February 2012), 'Sustained losses of bioavailable nitrogen from montane tropical forests', Nature Geoscience. [online], vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 123-126. Available at: [Accessed 2 November 2020].
  3. ^ Davidson, EA, De Carvalho, CÃJR, Figueira, AM, Ishida, FÃY, Ometto, JPHB, Nardoto, GB, Sabá, RT, Hayashi, SN, Leal, EC, Vieira, ICÃG & Martinelli, LA (2007), 'Recuperation of nitrogen cycling in Amazonian forests following agricultural abandonment', Nature, vol. 447, no. 7147, pp. 995-998.
  4. ^ Kiese, R, Hewett, B & Butterbach-bahl, K (2008), 'Seasonal dynamic of gross nitrification and N2O emission at two tropical rainforest sites in Queensland, Australia', Plant and Soil, vol. 309, pp. 105-117.
  5. ^ Robertson, GP (1984), 'Nitrification and nitrogen mineralization in a lowland rainforest succession in Costa Rica, Central America', Oecologia, no. 61, pp. 99-100.
  6. ^ a b Vitousek, PM (1984), 'Litterfall, nutrient cycling, and nutrient limitation in tropical forests', Ecology, vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 285-298.

Last updated: 2 August 2021

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2021) Rainforest – Outputs, WetlandInfo website, accessed 18 March 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation