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Root Growth and Recovery in Temperate Broad-Leaved Forest Stands Differing in Tree Species Diversity

Catharina Meinen, Dietrich Hertel and Christoph Leuschner
Ecosystems
Vol. 12, No. 7 (Nov., 2009), pp. 1103-1116
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25622868
Page Count: 14
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Root Growth and Recovery in Temperate Broad-Leaved Forest Stands Differing in Tree Species Diversity
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Abstract

In contrast to studies on aboveground processes, the effect of species diversity on belowground productivity and fine-root regrowth after disturbance is still poorly studied in forests. In 12 old-growth broad-leaved forest stands, we tested the hypotheses that (i) the productivity and recovery rate (regrowth per standing biomass) of the fine-root system (root diameter < 2 mm) increase with increasing tree species diversity, and that (ii) the seasonality of fine-root biomass and necromass is more pronounced in pure than in tree species-rich stands as a consequence of non-synchronous root biomass peaks of the different species. We investigated stands with 1, 3, and 5 dominant tree species growing under similar soil and climate conditions for changes in fine-root biomass and necromass during a 12-month period and estimated fine-root productivity with two independent approaches (ingrowth cores, sequential coring). According to the analysis of 360 ingrowth cores, fine-root growth into the root-free soil increased with tree species diversity from 72 g m⁻² y⁻¹ in the monospecific plots to 166 g m⁻² y⁻¹ in the 5-species plots, indicating an enhanced recovery rate of the root system after soil disturbance with increasing species diversity (0.26, 0.34, and 0.51 y⁻¹ in 1-, 3-, and 5-species plots, respectively). Fine-root productivity as approximated by the sequential coring data also indicated a roughly threefold increase from the monospecific to the 5-species stand. We found no indication of a more pronounced seasonality of fine-root mass in species-poor as compared to species-rich stands. We conclude that species identification on the fine root level, as conducted here, may open new perspectives on tree species effects on root system dynamics. Our study produced first evidence in support of the hypothesis that the fine-root systems of more diverse forest stands are more productive and recover more rapidly after soil disturbance than that of species-poor forests.

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