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Root systems of chaparral shrubs

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Root systems of chaparral shrubs were excavated from a 70 m2 plot of a mixed chaparral stand located on a north-facing slope in San Diego County (32°54′ N; 900 m above sea level). The main shrub species present were Adenostoma fasciculatum, Arctostaphylos pungens, Ceanothus greggii, Erigonum fasciculatum, and Haplopappus pinifolius. Shrubs were wired into their positions, and the soil was washed out beneath them down to a depth of approximately 60 cm, where impenetrable granite impeded further washing and root growth was severely restricted. Spacing and interweaving of root systems were recorded by an in-scale drawing. The roots were harvested in accordance to their depths, separated into diameter size classes for each species, and their dry weights measured. Roots of shrubs were largely confined to the upper soil levels. The roots of Eriogonum fasciculatum were concentrated in the upper soil layer. Roots of Adenostoma fasciculatum tended to be more superficial than those from Ceanothus greggii. It is hypothesized that the shallow soil at the excavation site impeded a clear depth zonation of the different root systems. The average dry weight root:shoot ratio was 0.6, ranging for the individual shrubs from 0.8 to 0.4. The root area always exceeded the shoot area, with the corresponding ratios ranging from 6 for Arctostaphylos pungens to 40 for Haplopappus pinifolius. The fine root density of 64 g dry weight per m2 under the canopy was significantly higher than in the unshaded area. However, the corresponding value of 45 g dry weight per m2 for the open ground is still high enough to make the establishment of other shrubs difficult.

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Kummerow, J., Krause, D. & Jow, W. Root systems of chaparral shrubs. Oecologia 29, 163–177 (1977).

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