Plant and Soil

, Volume 276, Issue 1–2, pp 23–32 | Cite as

Fine Root Dynamics in a Tropical Rain Forest is Influenced by Rainfall

  • J. J. Green
  • L. A. Dawson
  • J. Proctor
  • E. I. Duff
  • D. A. Elston
Article

Abstract

Quantifying patterns of fine root dynamics is crucial to the understanding of ecosystem structure and function, and in predicting how ecosystems respond to disturbance. Part of this understanding involves consideration of the carbon lost through root turnover. In the context of the rainfall pattern in the tropics, it was hypothesised that rainfall would strongly influence fine root biomass and longevity. A field study was conducted to determine root biomass, elemental composition and the influence of rainfall on longevity of fine roots in a tropical lowland evergreen rainforest at Danum Valley, Sabah, Malaysia. A combination of root coring, elemental analysis and rhizotron observation methods were used. Fine (less than 2 mm diameter) root biomass was relatively low (1700 kg ha −1) compared with previously described rainforest data. Standing root biomass was positively correlated with preceding rainfall, and the low fine root biomass in the dry season contained higher concentrations of N and lower concentrations of P and K than at other times. Observations on rhizotrons demonstrated that the decrease in fine root biomass in the dry season was a product of both a decrease in fine root length appearance and an increase in fine root length disappearance. Fitting an overall model to root survival time showed significant effects of rainfall preceding root disappearance, with the hazard of root disappearance decreasing by 8 for each 1 mm increase in the average daily (30 day) rainfall preceding root disappearance. While it is acknowledged that other factors have a part to play, this work demonstrates the importance of rainfall and soil moisture in influencing root biomass and root disappearance in this tropical rainforest.

Keywords

biomass rainfall rhizotron root dynamics root survival sequential coring soil moisture 

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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. J. Green
    • 1
  • L. A. Dawson
    • 1
  • J. Proctor
    • 2
  • E. I. Duff
    • 3
  • D. A. Elston
    • 3
  1. 1.Plant Soil Microbial InteractionsMacaulay InstituteCraigiebucklerUK
  2. 2.Department of Biological and Molecular SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK
  3. 3.Biomathematics and Statistics ScotlandThe Macaulay InstituteCraigiebucklerUK

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