, Volume 67, Issue 1, pp 73-84

A Review of Fine Root Dynamics in Populus Plantations

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Abstract

Production of native and hybridized varieties of Populus has received considerable interest in temperate regions as an alternative to agricultural crops and an additional wood source, while acting as a potential carbon (C) sink to offset emissions of fossil fuel-based greenhouse gases. Research of root system dynamics in Populus species is expanding, however, our understanding of the nature and role of fine roots (FR) is incomplete. The study objective, therefore, was to review the literature regarding FR production, mortality and longevity in Populus, and evaluate the magnitude and significance of the FR fraction to C sequestration. FRs, conventionally defined as less than 2 mm in diameter and responsible for water and nutrient uptake, are an essential component of the tree. Populus FRs are relatively short-lived, with reported lifespans ranging from 30 to 300 days, depending on root diameter, tree species and age, and soil environmental factors. Standing FR biomass fluctuates throughout the growing season. Fine root production generally peaks in mid-summer, and ranges between 1.0 and 5.0 mg ha−1 yr−1, while FR mortality has less seasonal amplitude. Production and mortality dynamics in Populus are highly plastic in response to soil environmental conditions, and although opposing conclusions have been proposed, research suggests soil moisture and nitrogen to be most important. Results from the literature indicate annual FR turnover to the soil C pool may be small (0.2–1.6 mg C ha−1 yr−1), but substantial in maintaining or enhancing C levels in natural and managed stands of Populus.