Assessing the patterns and controls of fine root dynamics: an empirical test and methodological review

Authors

  • JOSEPH J. HENDRICKS,

    1. Department of Biology, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA 30118, USA, Warnell School of Forest Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA, and
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  • RONALD L. HENDRICK,

    1. Department of Biology, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA 30118, USA, Warnell School of Forest Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA, and
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  • CARLOS A. WILSON,

    1. Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway, Rt. 2, Box 2324, Newton, GA 39870, USA
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  • ROBERT J. MITCHELL,

    1. Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway, Rt. 2, Box 2324, Newton, GA 39870, USA
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  • STEPHEN D. PECOT,

    1. Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway, Rt. 2, Box 2324, Newton, GA 39870, USA
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  • DALI GUO

    1. Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway, Rt. 2, Box 2324, Newton, GA 39870, USA
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    • *

      Present address: Department of Ecology, College of Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, 100871 China.


Joseph J. Hendricks (tel. +1 678 839 4037; fax +1 678 839 6548; e-mail jhendric@westga.edu).

Summary

  • 1Elucidation of the patterns and controls of forest net primary production at ecosystem scales has been hindered by a poor understanding of fine root production, due largely to technical limitations.
  • 2Fine root (≤ 0.5 mm diameter) production was assessed using minirhizotron, soil core, ingrowth core, nitrogen budget and carbon budget techniques in three longleaf pine-wiregrass forest ecosystem types (hydric, mesic and xeric) forming an edaphic resource availability and above-ground productivity gradient.
  • 3Fine root production estimates differed substantially in magnitude, e.g. values ranged from 0 to 4618 kg ha−1 year−1 for the soil core and minirhizotron techniques, respectively, in the hydric site.
  • 4Minirhizotron production estimates in the hydric, mesic and xeric sites were 4618, 1905 and 2295 kg ha−1 year−1, respectively.
  • 5Soil core and ingrowth core root production estimates were on average 81 and 54% lower, respectively, than corresponding minirhizotron production estimates, and minirhizotron estimates were negatively related to soil core and ingrowth core estimates across the resource gradient.
  • 6The N budget method yielded unreliable root production estimates, presumably due to the underestimation of N availability for plant assimilation.
  • 7C budget estimates of total below-ground C allocation (6773, 5646 and 4647 kg C ha−1 year−1) were positively related to minirhizotron production estimates, but negatively related to soil core and ingrowth core production estimates.
  • 8Critical evaluations of the assumptions, potential errors and results for each method suggest that the minirhizotron technique yielded the most reliable root production estimates, and that the negative relationship between minirhizotron and core-based estimates may be attributed to the inherent deficiency of the core techniques in assessing root production when mortality and production occur simultaneously.
  • 9Minirhizotron root production estimates were positively related to foliage production estimates, supporting the hypothesis of constant proportional allocation of production to foliage, wood and fine roots across resource availability gradients in temperate forests.
  • 10These results suggest that fine root production is not negatively correlated with soil resource availability and foliage production as is commonly perceived in the ecological community and represented in ecosystem computer models.

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