, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 175–190 | Cite as

Root turnover as determinant of the cycling of C, N, and P in a dry heathland ecosystem

  • R. Aerts
  • C. Bakker
  • H. De Caluwe


Root production and turnover were studied using sequential core sampling and observations in permanent minirhizotrons in the field in three dry heathland stands dominated by the evergreen dwarfshrub Calluna vulgaris and the grasses Deschampsia flexuosa and Molinia caerulea, respectively. Root biomass production, estimated by core sampling, amounted to 160 (Calluna), 180 (Deschampsia) and 1380 (Molinia) g m-2 yr-1, respectively. Root biomass turnover rate in Calluna (0.64 yr-1) was lower compared with the grasses (Deschampsia: 0.96 yr-1; Molinia 1.68yr-1)). Root length turnover rate was 0.75–0.77 yr-1 (Deschampsia) and 1.17–1.49 yr-1 (Molinia), respectively. No resorption of N and P from senescing roots was observed in either species. Input of organic N into the soil due to root turnover, estimated using the core sampling data, amounted to 1.8 g N m-2 yr-1(Calluna), 1.7 g N m-2 yr-1 (Deschampsia) and 19.7 g N m-2 yr-1 (Molinia), respectively. The organic P input was 0.05, 0.07 and 0.55 g P M-2 yr-1, respectively. Using the minirhizotron turnover estimates these values were20–22% (Deschampsia) and 11–30% (Molinia) lower.

When the biomass turnover data were used, it appeared that in the Molinia stand root turnover contributed 67% to total litter production, 87% to total litter nitrogen loss and 84% to total litter phosphorus loss. For Calluna and Deschampsia these percentages were about three and two times lower, respectively.

This study shows that (1) Root turnover is a key factor in ecosystem C, N, and P cycling; and that (2) The relative importance of root turnover differs between species.

Key words

carbon cycling heathland minirhizotron N and P cycling N and P resorption root turnover 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Aerts
    • 1
  • C. Bakker
    • 1
  • H. De Caluwe
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept of Plant Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of UtrechtTB UtrechtThe Netherlands

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