Effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on fine root length and distribution in an oak-palmetto scrub ecosystem in central Florida


Frank P. Day, fax +1-804-683-5283, e-mail FPD100U@ODUVM.CC.ODU.EDU


Atmospheric CO2 concentration is rising and it has been suggested that a portion of the additional carbon is being sequestered in terrestrial vegetation and much of that in below-ground structures. The objective of the present study was to quantify the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on fine root length and distribution with depth with minirhizotrons in an open-top chamber experiment in an oak-palmetto scrub ecosystem at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, USA. Observations were made five times over a period of one and a half years in three ambient chambers (350 p.p.m. CO2), three CO2 enriched chambers (700 p.p.m. CO2), and three unchambered plots. Greater root length densities were produced in the elevated CO2 chambers (14.2 mm cm−2) compared to the ambient chambers (8.7 mm cm−2). More roots may presumably lead to more efficient acquisition of resources. Fine root abundance varied significantly with soil depth, and there appeared to be enhanced proliferation of fine roots near the surface (0–12 cm) and at greater depth (49–61 cm) in the elevated CO2 chambers. The vertical root distribution pattern may be a response to availability of nutrients and water. More studies are needed to determine if increased root length under CO2 enriched conditions actually results in greater sequestering of carbon below ground.