, Volume 291, Issue 1-2, pp 119-129

Vertical distribution of fine roots in relation to soil factors in Pinus tabulaeformis Carr. forest of the Loess Plateau of China

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Abstract

Growth and vertical distribution of fine root closely depend on soil resource availability. Better understanding of relationships of root profile with vertical distribution of available soil resource and soil characteristics can allow ecologists to predict the fine root distribution on the scales ranging from individual plants to vegetation communities. The objective of the study was to understand the fine root mass density (FRMD), fine root length density (FRLD), fine root area density (FRAD), mean root diameter and specific root length (SRL), vertical distribution in soil profile and their relation with soil environment factors in semiarid and arid Loess Plateau of China. The vertical fine root distribution and soil bulk density, soil moisture and soil inorganic N in 0-60 cm soil profile (0–15, 15–30, 30–45 and 45–60 cm intervals) were investigated by soil coring methods in three Pinus tabulaeformis Carr. forests chosen at three locations. The fine root density parameters (FRMD, FRLD and FRAD) and SRL peaked in the most upper soil layer (0–15 cm interval) and decreased with increased soil depth. The results provided a strong support that soil water rather than soil inorganic N is a key control on fine root distribution in the Loess Plateau. With increased soil moisture, the root mass, length and SRL increased and the mean root diameter decreased. The effects of soil bulk density on the fine root parameters were consistent with those of the soil water. An unexpected result was obtained about the relationships between soil organic N and the root distributions and occurrences because of no differences among the soil depth intervals in soil inorganic N content. It might be associated with severe soil water deficit limiting soil nitrogen utilization efficiency in arid Loess Plateau.