Plant and Soil

, Volume 276, Issue 1, pp 15–22

Influences of Root Diameter, Tree Age, Soil Depth and Season on Fine Root Survivorship in Prunus avium


    • Crop and Soil Research GroupSAC
  • Christine A. Watson
    • Crop and Soil Research GroupSAC

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-005-0263-6

Cite this article as:
Baddeley, J.A. & Watson, C.A. Plant Soil (2005) 276: 15. doi:10.1007/s11104-005-0263-6


The rapid turnover of the fine root system is a major pathway of carbon and nutrient flow from plant to soil in forest ecosystems. In order to quantify these fluxes there is a need to understand how fine root demography is influenced by edaphic, environmental and plant ontogenetic factors. We studied the influence of four major factors (season, depth, root diameter and tree age) on the survivorship and longevity of fine roots of Prunus avium L. (wild cherry) over two years in North East Scotland. Survival analysis of data derived from minirhizotron observations showed that, for the range of root diameters studied, an increase in root diameter of 0.1 mm was associated with a 16% decrease in the risk of death. Depth was also an important factor; roots present at a depth of 10 cm had significantly lower survivorship than did roots at all lower depths studied. The effects of tree age and season on root production were more complex. Roots of old trees were more likely to die in the spring and roots of young trees were more likely to die in the autumn. Our data illustrate the complex factors that must be taken into account when scaling up information from individual observations of root longevity to model the contribution of fine roots to C and nutrient fluxes in forest ecosystems.


minirhizotronroot demographyroot lifespanroot turnoverseasonal dynamicssurvival analysis

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© Springer 2005