, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 37-44

Root biomass, root distribution and the fine-root growth dynamics of Quercus coccifera L. in the garrigue of southern France

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Abstract

Quercus coccifera L., the characteristic scrub oak of the garrigue, covers more than 100,000 ha in southern France alone. Precipitation in this area averages 900 mm/year and summer rains are not rare. A total belowground biomass of 7.2 kg/m2, including rhizomes and lignotubers, was harvested. Roots were concentrated in the uppermost 50 cm of the soil. It was hypothesized that low winter temperatures inhibit active fine-root growth. This hypothesis was tested by means of fine-root extractions of soil samples from 0–50 cm depth from November 1987 to June 1988. Although the fine-root analysis could not be extended into late summer and fall, the data supported the hypothesis. Ratios of live/dead fine roots reached their minimum at 0.2–0.3 from December to April. They increased to 1.0–1.2 during late spring and early summer. Initiation of fine-root growth in early April was synchronous with bud break. Starch contents of roots, rhizomes, and lignotubers fluctuated from 4.3% in January to 8.3% in April. The starch stored in belowground organs of Q. coccifera in a closed canopy stand amounted to about 500 g/m2 in April. This amount declined to 400 g with bud burst and fine-root growth initiation.