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Asynchronicity in root and shoot phenology in grasses and woody plants

Authors

  • DIEGO F. STEINAKER,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Regina, Regina SK, Canada S4S 0A2
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    • 1Present address: Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria, Casilla de Correo 17, Villa Mercedes (Pcia. San Luis), CP: 5730, Argentina.

  • SCOTT D. WILSON,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Regina, Regina SK, Canada S4S 0A2
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  • DUANE A. PELTZER

    1. Department of Biology, University of Regina, Regina SK, Canada S4S 0A2
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    • 2Present address: Landcare Research, PO Box 40, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand.


Scott D. Wilson, tel. +1 306 585 4201, fax +1 306 337 2410, e-mail: scott.wilson.uregina@gmail.com

Abstract

Phenology is central to understanding vegetation response to climate change, as well as vegetation effects on plant resources, but most temporal production data is based on shoots, especially those of trees. In contrast, most production in temperate and colder regions is belowground, and is frequently dominated by grasses. We report root and shoot phenology in 7-year old monocultures of 10 dominant species (five woody species, five grasses) in southern Canada. Woody shoot production was greatest about 8 weeks before the peak of root production, whereas grass shoot maxima preceded root maxima by 2–4 weeks. Over the growing season, woody root, and grass root and shoot production increased significantly with soil temperature. In contrast, the timing of woody shoot production was not related to soil temperature (r=0.01). The duration of root production was significantly greater than that of shoot production (grasses: 22%, woody species: 54%). Woody species produced cooler and moister soils than grasses, but growth forms did not affect seasonal patterns of soil conditions. Although woody shoots are the current benchmark for phenology studies, the other three components examined here (woody plant roots, grass shoots and roots) differed greatly in peak production time, as well as production duration. These results highlight that shoot and root phenology is not coincident, and further, that major plant growth forms differ in their timing of above- and belowground production. Thus, considering total plant phenology instead of only tree shoot phenology should provide a better understanding of ecosystem response to climate change.

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