The distribution and productivity of fine roots in boreal forests

  • Hans Å. Persson
Part of the Developments in Plant and Soil Sciences book series (DPSS, volume 7)


The important role of fine roots in the energy expenditure of boreal forests has only recently been illuminated in ecosystem research. As demonstrated in recent research, fine roots are in constant flux, with death and replacement taking place simultaneously. Closely related to the energy costs of development and maintenance of the different roots systems are their functional effectiveness as organs for the absorption of water and nutrients. In forests the dynamics of fine roots need to be considered further in order to make reliable comparisons of plant productivity on an ecosystemic level.

Data on the temporal variations of fine-root death and replacement are given from two Scots pine stands (Pinus sylvestris) of different ages in Central Sweden. Two methods were adopted in order to investigate the fine-root dynamics: (i) using data obtained by sequential core sampling and (ii) measuring the ingrowth of new roots into root-free cores removed at regular intervals. Only a few vascular species, viz. P. sylvestris, Calluna vulgaris and Vaccinium vitis-idaea, were to be found in this fairly simple type of ecosystem and all of them had distinctive morphological rooting features. The ratio between the production estimates from either method (i) or (ii) and the average standing crop (biomass + necromass) of the fine roots (< 2mm in diameter) varied between 2.0 and 1.5; 0.6 and 0.5; and 1.5 and 0.4 for P. sylvestris, C. vulgaris and V. vitis-idaea respectively in a young Scots pine stand and between 0.9 and 0.7; 0.6 and 0.7; and 0.1 and 0.1 in a mature Scots pine stand. The greatest death and replacement of fine roots of the tree component was estimated in the mineral soil, whereas that of the superficially distributed dwarf shrubs was found in the F/H layer.

Key words

Calluna vulgaris Core sampling Fine roots Fine-root biomass Fine-root dynamics Fine-root necromass Fine-root production Forest ecosystem Ingrowth cores Pinus sylvestris Vaccinium vitis-idaea 


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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff/Dr W. Junk Publishers, The Hague 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Å. Persson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Environmental ResearchSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden

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