Plant and Soil

, Volume 389, Issue 1–2, pp 121–129 | Cite as

Early season root production in relation to leaf production among six diverse temperate tree species

  • M. Luke McCormackEmail author
  • Katie P. Gaines
  • Melissa Pastore
  • David M. Eissenstat
Regular Article



Leaf and root phenology play important roles controlling plant productivity and ecosystem function, yet, few studies link patterns of leaf and root phenology across woody species. Trees with diffuse-porous wood anatomy tend to leaf-out before ring-porous species and we expected that increases in transpiration with spring leaf-out would be coupled with initiation of root production to support uptake of soil resources. Therefore, we hypothesized that the timing of root production would follow patterns of leaf production and wood anatomy.


Root production was observed using minirhizotrons and related to leaf phenology across six temperate tree species with different wood anatomy in a common garden.


As expected, leaves of diffuse-porous species emerged before ring-porous, followed by tracheid species. Root production peaked before bud break in five of the six species and before maximum leaf area index in all species, but did not follow expected patterns with leaf production.


Our observations did not indicate tight linkages between root and leaf phenology but do highlight the potential for very early season root production and greater variation in the phenology of roots than leaves. Future work should identify the environmental factors and species traits that best explain variation in root phenology.


Phenology Ecosystem Net primary production (NPP) Minirhizotron Belowground Leaf area index (LAI) 



The authors thank T. Adams for assistance in the lab and field. This work was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) (ARC-1107381 and IOS-1120482) to DME; Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31350110503), and the United States DOE GREF to MLM; NSF GK-12 CarbonEARTH (0947962) to KPG; and NSF SSHCZO Zone Observatory (EAR 07–25019 & EAR 12–39285).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


  1. Burke MK, Raynal DJ (1994) Fine-Root Growth Phenology, Production, and Turnover in a Northern Hardwood. For Ecosyst Plant Soil 162:135–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cardon ZG, Czaja AD, Funk JL, Vitt PL (2002) Periodic carbon flushing to roots of Quercus rubra saplings affects soil respiration and rhizosphere microbial biomass. Oecologia 133:215–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Côté B, Hendershot WH, Fyles JW, Roy AG, Bradley R, Biron PM, Courchesne F (1998) The phenology of fine root growth in a maple-dominated ecosystem: relationships with some soil properties. Plant Soil 201:59–69, %@ 0032-0079XCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dietze MC, Sala A, Carbone MS, Czimczik CI, Mantooth JA, Richardson AD, Vargas R (2014) Nonstructural carbon in woody plants. Ann Rev Plant Biol 65Google Scholar
  5. Diez JM et al (2012) Forecasting phenology: from species variability to community patterns. Ecol Lett 15:545–553CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Eissenstat DM, Caldwell MM (1988) Seasonal timing of root growth in favorable microsites. Ecology 69:870–873CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eissenstat DM, Bauerle TL, Comas LH, Lakso AN, Neilsen D, Neilsen GH, Smart DR (2006) Seasonal patterns of root growth in relation to shoot phenology in grape and apple. Acta Hortic 721:21–26Google Scholar
  8. Fridley JD (2012) Extended leaf phenology and the autumn niche in deciduous forest invasions. Nature 485:359–362CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Hacke UG, Sperry JS (2001) Functional and ecological xylem anatomy. Perspect Plant Ecol Evol Syst 4:97–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Harris GA (1977) Root phenology as a factor of competition among grass seedlings. J Range Manag 30:172–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Harris JR, Bassuk NL, Zobel RW, Whitlow TH (1995) Root and shoot growth periodicity of green ash, scarlet oak Turkish hazelnut, and tree lilac. J Am Soc Hortic Sci 120:211–216Google Scholar
  12. Inouye DW (2008) Effects of climate change on phenology, frost damage, and floral abundance of montane wildflowers. Ecology 89:353–362CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Joslin JD, Wolfe MH, Hanson PJ (2001) Factors controlling the timing of root elongation intensity in a mature upland oak stand. Plant Soil 228:201–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kong D, Li L, Ma C, Zeng H, Guo D (2014) Leading dimensions of root trait variation in subtropical forests. New Phytol. doi: 10.1111/nph.12842
  15. Lechowicz MJ (1984) Why do temperate deciduous trees leaf out at different times?Adaptation and ecology of forest communities. Am Nat 124:821–842CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Litton CM, Raich JW, Ryan MG (2007) Carbon allocation in forest ecosystems. Global Chang Biol 13:2089–2109. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2007.01420.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lynch DJ, Matamala R, Iversen CM, Norby RJ, Gonzalez-Meler MA (2013) Stored carbon partly fuels fine-root respiration but is not used for production of new fine roots New Phytologist 199:420–430Google Scholar
  18. Lyr H, Hoffmann G (1967) Growth rates and growth periodicity of tree roots. Int Rev For Res 2:181–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Malhi Y, Doughty C, Galbraith D (2011) The allocation of ecosystem net primary productivity in tropical forests. Philos Trans Royal Soc B: Biol Sci 366:3225–3245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McCormack ML, Adams TS, Smithwick EA, Eissenstat DM (2012) Predicting fine root lifespan from plant functional traits in temperate trees. New Phytol 195:823–831. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2012.04198.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McCormack ML, Adams TS, Smithwick EA, Eissenstat DM (2014) Variability in root production, phenology, and turnover rate among 12 temperate tree species. Ecology 95:2224–2235. doi: 10.1890/13-1942.1 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Morin X, Lechowicz MJ, Augspurger C, O’ Keefe J, Viner D, Chuine I (2009) Leaf phenology in 22 North American tree species during the 21st century. Glob Chang Biol 15:961–975. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2008.01735.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Palacio S, Montserrat-Martí G (2007) Above and belowground phenology of four Mediterranean sub-shrubs. Preliminary results on root–shoot competition. J Arid Environ 68:522–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Reich PB, Teskey RO, Johnson PS, Hinckley TM (1980) Periodic root and shoot growth in oak. For Sci 26:590–598Google Scholar
  25. Richardson AD, Bailey AS, Denny EG, Martin CW, O’Keefe J (2006) Phenology of a northern hardwood forest canopy. Glob Chang Biol 12:1174–1188. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01164.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Salguero Gómez R, Casper BB (2011) Introducing short roots in a desert perennial: anatomy and spatiotemporal foraging responses to increased precipitation. New Phytol 191:173–183CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Steele SJ, Gower ST, Vogel JG, Norman JM (1997) Root mass, net primary production and turnover in aspen, jack pine, and black spruce forests i Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada Tree Physiology 17:577–587Google Scholar
  28. Steinaker DF, Wilson SD, Peltzer DA (2010) Asynchronicity in root and shoot phenology in grasses and woody plants. Glob Chang Biol 16:2241–2251. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.02065.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Teskey RO, Hinckley TM (1981) Influence of temperature and water potential on root growth of white oak. Physiol Plant 52:363–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tierney GL, Fahey TJ, Groffman PM, Hardy JP, Fitzhugh RD, Driscoll CT, Yavitt JB (2003) Environmental control of fine root dynamics in a northern hardwood forest. Glob Chang Biol 9:670–679CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Vargas R, Trumbore SE, Allen MF (2009) Evidence of old carbon used to grow new fine roots in a tropical forest New Phytologist 182:710–718Google Scholar
  32. Wang J, Ives NE, Lechowicz MJ (1992) The relation of foliar phenology to xylem embolism in trees. Funct Ecol:469–475Google Scholar
  33. Withington JM, Reich PB, Oleksyn J, Eissenstat DM (2006) Comparisons of structure and life span in roots and leaves among temperate trees. Ecol Monogr 76:381–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Luke McCormack
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Katie P. Gaines
    • 2
    • 3
  • Melissa Pastore
    • 3
    • 4
  • David M. Eissenstat
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in EcologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecosystem Science and ManagementThe Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyVillanova UniversityVillanovaUSA

Personalised recommendations