Effects of morphology and stand structure on root biomass and length differed between absorptive and transport roots in temperate trees

Abstract

Aims

Absorptive and transport roots (diameter ≤ 2 mm) are closely related to soil resource uptake for plant growth, carbon budget and nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems, but how and why the relative share of root biomass or root length for both root functional types changes with tree species is not well understood. Our aims were to examine the inter-specific variations of root biomass and length per unit area of absorptive and transport roots, and their relationships with stand structure and soil characteristics, root morphological and architectural traits.

Methods

We measured root biomass and length per unit area, diameter, specific root length (SRL), root tissue density (RTD), and branching ratio of the first five order roots, stand and soil characteristics in seven forests consisting of different tree species at a common site. The first order roots were classified as absorptive roots and the other orders as transport roots based on our earlier work.

Results

Biomass ratios of absorptive to transport roots varied from 1:5.56 to 1:1.12 among species, and length ratios ranged from 1:1.56 to 1:0.29. Root biomass was not influenced by root morphology or architecture, nor by stand or soil characteristics. Absorptive root length was significantly correlated with SRL, RTD, and branching ratio of the first to second order roots among species, whereas transport root length was significantly correlated with stem density.

Conclusions

The relative share of biomass and length for absorptive and transport roots differed among tree species, which may influence belowground carbon allocation and resource competition.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Abbreviations

SRL:

Specific root length

RTD:

Root tissue density

N:

Nitrogen

C:

Carbon

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Acknowledgements

We thank Lijuan Xiao, Zhendong Ma for assistance on field work. We also thank Catherine Dandie, PhD, for editing the English text of an earlier draft of this manuscript. We especially appreciate two anonymous reviewers and the editor for comments that improved this article. This research was jointly supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2572018BA11), National Natural Science Foundation of China (31870608 and 31100470), and the Natural Science Foundation of Heilongjiang Province (No. C2016004).

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Correspondence to Jiacun Gu.

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Wang, Y., Gao, G., Wang, N. et al. Effects of morphology and stand structure on root biomass and length differed between absorptive and transport roots in temperate trees. Plant Soil 442, 355–367 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-019-04206-7

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Keywords

  • Absorptive roots
  • Fine root
  • Nutrient forage strategy
  • Root biomass
  • Root order