Fine root longevity and below- and aboveground litter production in a boreal Betula pendula forest

Fine root longevity and below- and aboveground litter production in a boreal Betula pendula forest

Publication date: Available online 28 February 2018

Source: Forest Ecology and Management

Author(s): Yiyang Ding, Jaana Leppälammi-Kujansuu, Heljä-Sisko Helmisaari


1. Fine root turnover plays a critical role in carbon and nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems. In this study, we focused on the most abundant deciduous species in Nordic countries, silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) and its fine root dynamics, including the amount of litter produced by fine roots as well as by aboveground vegetation.

2. The minirhizotron method was used to quantify fine root longevity of silver birch and understory fine roots and rhizomes in northern Finland. Fine root biomass per basal area and ectomycorrhizal short root numbers per mg were also quantified. The fine root litter production was estimated by fine root biomass and longevity, and then compared with the aboveground litter collected with litter traps.

3. Birch fine root biomass was 1.4-fold higher than that of understory fine roots and rhizomes (234 ± 22, 171 ± 19 g m−2 respectively). Fine root longevity of birch (372 days) was significantly (P < 0.05) shorter than that of understory vegetation (643 days). The birch fine root longevity was positively related to root diameter and soil depth. Hazard analysis showed that thicker roots, long roots, roots produced late in the growing season, and roots growing deeper in the soil had relatively lower mortality hazard compared to the reference data. The total annual soil C input, including both birch and understory, was 283 g C m−2 yr−1. The proportion of understory annual C input was 35% of the total. Total annual belowground C input was 1.4-fold greater than that of aboveground.

4. Our study indicated that the total annual belowground litter production was greater than that of the aboveground litter in a boreal deciduous forest stand. Therefore, more emphasis should be put to quantify the C cycling of both above- and belowground parts of different tree species as well as understory in boreal forests.


via ScienceDirect Publication: Forest Ecology and Management

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