Plant and Soil

, Volume 330, Issue 1–2, pp 73–89 | Cite as

Belowground interspecific competition in mixed boreal forests: fine root and ectomycorrhiza characteristics along stand developmental stage and soil fertility gradients

  • Tuomo Kalliokoski
  • Taina Pennanen
  • Pekka Nygren
  • Risto Sievänen
  • Heljä-Sisko Helmisaari
Regular Article


We studied fine roots and ectomycorrhizas in relation to aboveground tree and stand characteristics in five mixed Betula pendula Roth, Picea abies (L.) H. Karst., and Pinus sylvestris L. stands in Southern Finland. The stands formed gradients of developmental stage (15-, 30-, and 50-year-old stands) in the stands of medium fertility, and of site fertility in the young stands (30-year-old fertile, medium fertile, and least fertile stands). The biomass of the external hyphae of ectomycorrhizas (ECM) was the highest, and the diversity of the fungal community the lowest, in the most fertile stand. The vertical distributions of fine roots of the three tree species were mostly overlapping, indicating high inter-specific belowground competition in the stands. We did not find any clear trends in the fine root biomass (FRB) or length across the stand developmental stages. The FRB of the conifers varied with site fertility, whereas in B. pendula it was almost constant. In contrast to the conifers, the specific root length (SRL) of B. pendula clearly increased from the most fertile to the least fertile stand. This indicates differences in the primary nutrient acquisition strategy between conifers and B. pendula.


Fine root biomass Fine root length Root morphology Ectomycorrhizal diversity Fungal biomass 



We gratefully acknowledge the help of Pekka Välikangas, Reijo Hautajärvi, Pasi Aatsinki, and Juha Kemppainen in organizing and supervising the pretreatment of the fine root samples in the Salla Office of the Rovaniemi Research Unit of the Finnish Forest Research Institute. We thank Brasilia Decouba, Eva Komanická, Minna Sinkkonen, Mirva Sandberg, Peter Hohti, Roman Tenz, Szilveszter Csorba, Tatiana Kaletova, and the staff of Salla Office for skilful laboratory assistance. We also thank Tarja Lehto for constructive comments on the manuscript. The study was funded by the Academy of Finland (Project 210875).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tuomo Kalliokoski
    • 1
    • 2
  • Taina Pennanen
    • 1
  • Pekka Nygren
    • 2
  • Risto Sievänen
    • 1
  • Heljä-Sisko Helmisaari
    • 1
  1. 1.Finnish Forest Research InstituteVantaaFinland
  2. 2.Department of Forest EcologyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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