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Keywords:

  • precipitation;
  • root mortality;
  • root production;
  • root turnover;
  • temperate grassland;
  • warming

Abstract

Fine root production and turnover play important roles in regulating carbon (C) cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. In order to examine effects of climate change on root production and turnover, a field experiment with increased temperature and precipitation had been conducted in a semiarid temperate steppe in northern China since April 2005. Experimental warming decreased annual root production, mortality, and mean standing crop by 10.3%, 12.1%, 7.0%, respectively, while root turnover was not affected in 2006 and 2007 by the warming. Annual root production and turnover was 5.9% and 10.3% greater in the elevated than ambient precipitation plots. Changes in root production and mortality in response to increased temperature and precipitation could be largely attributed to the changes in gross ecosystem productivity (GEP) and belowground/aboveground C allocation. There were significant interactive effects of warming and increased precipitation on root productivity, mortality, and standing crop. Experimental warming had positive and negative effects on the three root variables (root production, mortality, standing crop) under ambient and increased precipitation, respectively. Increased precipitation stimulated and suppressed the three root variables in the unwarmed and warmed subplots, respectively. The positive dependence of soil respiration and ecosystem respiration upon root productivity and mortality highlights the important role of root dynamics in ecosystem C cycling. The nonadditive effects of increased temperature and precipitation on root productivity, mortality, and standing crop observed in this study are critical for model projections of climate–ecosystem feedbacks. These findings indicate that carbon allocation is a focal point for future research and that results from single factor experiments should be treated with caution because of factor interactions.