Plant and Soil

, Volume 426, Issue 1–2, pp 327–337 | Cite as

Quantification of the contrasting root systems of Pinus thunbergii in soils with different groundwater levels in a coastal forest in Japan

  • Yasuhiro HiranoEmail author
  • Chikage Todo
  • Keitaro Yamase
  • Toko Tanikawa
  • Masako Dannoura
  • Mizue Ohashi
  • Ryuusei Doi
  • Ryusei Wada
  • Hidetoshi Ikeno
Regular Article



The different root systems of Pinus thunbergii observed after the tsunami in 2011 were possibly influenced by different groundwater levels before the tsunami. The aims of this study were to quantify the tap and horizontal root structure and evaluate their relationship with the above-ground parts under different groundwater levels in a coastal P. thunbergii forest.


Two plots, sea- and land-side, with different groundwater levels, in a P. thunbergii stand, were established, and the entire root-systems of three select trees each were harvested to evaluate the biomass, lengths, and cross-sectional areas of the tap and horizontal roots.


In the sea-side plot, which had a shallower groundwater level, plate root systems with thicker and longer horizontal roots, but fewer tap roots were observed, whereas tap root systems were well developed in the land-side plots, where the groundwater level was deeper. The root-to- shoot ratio was significantly higher in the sea-side plot than in the land-side plot.


We confirmed that quantitative contrasting root systems of P. thunbergii develop under different groundwater levels and higher biomass allocation to horizontal roots occur under shallower groundwater depths, emphasizing the need for management practices that promote the development of tap root systems to enhance resistance to tsunamis.


Biomass allocation Horizontal root Root-to-shoot ratio Plasticity Tap root Tsunami 



Stem diameter at breast height


Electrical conductivity


Stem height


Stem height of lowest living branch



We thank K. Noguchi (Tohoku Research Center, FFPRI) for improving the manuscript, and K. Kujihashi, K. Okuda (University of Hyogo), J. An, R. Nakahata (Kyoto University), and S. Ohashi (Manbokuen), M. Harano (Aichi branch, Japan Tree Doctors Association) for their invaluable field and laboratory assistance, and A. Yoshikawa (Kyoto University) for the help with the photo analysis of root systems. We also thank A. Miyamoto, K. Hattori (Aichi Prefecture Fisheries Center), N. Yamashita, A. Ishida, A. Nakashima (Aichi Forestry Prefectural Center), the Aichi Prefecture Fisheries Center and Aichi Prefectural Government for permission to use the field site.


This study was partially funded by JSPS KAKENHI (Grant number, 25252027).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Environmental StudiesNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  2. 2.Hyogo Prefectural Technology Center for Agriculture, Forestry and FisheriesShisoJapan
  3. 3.Kansai Research CenterForestry and Forest Products Research InstituteKyotoJapan
  4. 4.Graduate School of Global Environmental StudiesKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  5. 5.Graduate School of AgricultureKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  6. 6.School of Human Science and EnvironmentUniversity of HyogoHimejiJapan

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