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Keywords:

  • Atlantic white cedar;
  • chronosequence;
  • fine roots;
  • forested wetlands;
  • minirhizotrons;
  • restoration;
  • root length density;
  • root production

Abstract

This work addressed the seasonal and successional factors of root dynamics in natural and restoration Atlantic white cedar (AWC) wetlands. Using minirhizotrons and soil root cores, fine root dynamics were measured in a chronosequence of reference and restoration AWC wetlands to compare trends in ecosystem development after canopy harvest. Seasonal fine root abundance, production, and mortality were sampled during a 439-day period in one restoration and three reference AWC wetlands. Soil cores were collected to measure fine root biomass and to determine allometric relationships between root length and biomass. Significant seasonal variation of root dynamics was observed in the young reference and restoration sites. The mature and intermediate-aged sites exhibited little seasonal variability in root abundance and mortality. Root production was variable but not seasonally consistent. Results suggest that root dynamics become less seasonal as AWC communities shift from herbaceous to woody vegetation dominance. No trend in fine root abundance along the chronosequence was observed, suggesting that roots rapidly reestablish following tree harvest. Measurements of annual root length production suggest increasing annual production with decreasing stand age. However, a reversal of this trend was observed when using production estimates calculated from minirhizotron measurements and root length–mass relationships. These findings underscore the importance of supplementing minirhizotron data with root allometric relationships when analyzing vegetation gradients. Overall, results indicate substantial differences in the form and quantity of root contributions to soil organic matter in the restoration site compared to that in the reference chronosequence. Higher initial planting densities of AWC are recommended to achieve similar contributions of roots to soil organic matter accumulation in the restoration site.