Plant and Soil

, Volume 363, Issue 1–2, pp 33–48 | Cite as

Observations of below-ground characteristics of young redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) from two sites in New Zealand – implications for erosion control

  • Christopher J. Phillips
  • Michael Marden
  • Suzanne Lambie
  • Alex Watson
  • Craig Ross
  • Scott Fraser
Regular Article



Radiata pine (Pinus radiata D. Don) plantations are widely used to control erosion in New Zealand. However, other species with similar growth but longer rotation lengths and ability to coppice may offer future alternatives to radiata pine. Comparing performance of alternative species to radiata thus becomes important if policy is to be developed to promote them.


The below-ground characteristics (roots) of young redwood (Sequoia sempervirens (D. Don) Endl.) trees from two established plantations in New Zealand were examined and compared with those of radiata pine, and selected poplar and New Zealand native species.


Roots with diameters less than 10 mm comprised over 99 % of total root length in 3-yr-old trees and 98 % of total root length in 4-yr-old trees. For roots greater than 2 mm in diameter, total root length of young redwood trees was greater than that of young radiata pine, poplar and the best performing New Zealand native plant. Total root length at a given root collar diameter for young (1–4 year old) redwood trees was significantly greater than for radiata pine trees. Roots of redwoods were finer and more numerous than for radiata but the below-ground biomass for a given root collar diameter showed no statistical difference between the two species.


Redwood, because of its comparable growth rate and the production of many fine lateral roots, has the potential to become a keystone erosion-control species in New Zealand, especially on steep lands where there is an increased risk of post-harvest landsliding associated with moderate to severe rainstorm events.


Below-ground biomass Coppicing Manual exposure Root length Structural roots 



Russell Coker, Operations Manager of New Zealand Redwood Company, is thanked for allowing the destructive sampling of trees assessed in this study. Graham Coker and Dave Henley (Scion) are thanked for providing above-ground biomass data at our two redwood sites and for providing data on radiata to enable comparisons to be made. Kaisa Valkonen, Danny Thornburrow and John Dando assisted with root extraction, processing or data entry. Christine Bezar edited a draft of this paper. This research was supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (Contract C04X0806 Protecting and Enhancing the Environment through Forestry).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher J. Phillips
    • 1
  • Michael Marden
    • 2
  • Suzanne Lambie
    • 3
  • Alex Watson
    • 1
  • Craig Ross
    • 3
  • Scott Fraser
    • 4
  1. 1.Landcare ResearchLincolnNew Zealand
  2. 2.Landcare ResearchGisborneNew Zealand
  3. 3.Landcare ResearchPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  4. 4.Landcare ResearchHamiltonNew Zealand

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