Acid phosphatase activity (APA), labile P fractions and fine root growth were studied in an oak (Quercus pyrenaica Willd.) forest in the Sierra de Gata, in western central Spain. Soils in the region are acid and rich in organic matter, with low levels of extractable inorganic P but with a high proportion of organic P In such soils, the activity of phosphatase enzymes is likely to be important for the control of P mineralization and P cycling and, consequently, can affect the availability of P for plant uptake. The biomass of fine roots was about 25-fold that of leaf litter, demonstrating a high allocation of C resources to the root system in order to compensate for a low availability of soil nutrients. The study compared plots fertilized with triple superphosphate (100 kg P ha(-1)) to control (unfertilized) plots. Fertilizer application had no significant effect on APA and fine root density; however, there were significant differences in available and microbial P. Spatial and seasonal variations in the APA were related to plant root density and biotic demand. Seasonal differences in the APA may also be the consequence of changes in the amount of hydrolysable organic substrates at different times of the year.