skip to main content


Title: Fine root dynamics across pantropical rainforest ecosystems
Abstract

Fine roots constitute a significant component of the net primary productivity (NPP) of forest ecosystems but are much less studied than aboveground NPP. Comparisons across sites and regions are also hampered by inconsistent methodologies, especially in tropical areas. Here, we present a novel dataset of fine root biomass, productivity, residence time, and allocation in tropical old‐growth rainforest sites worldwide, measured using consistent methods, and examine how these variables are related to consistently determined soil and climatic characteristics. Our pantropical dataset spans intensive monitoring plots in lowland (wet, semi‐deciduous, and deciduous) and montane tropical forests in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia (n = 47). Large spatial variation in fine root dynamics was observed across montane and lowland forest types. In lowland forests, we found a strong positive linear relationship between fine root productivity and sand content, this relationship was even stronger when we considered the fractional allocation of total NPP to fine roots, demonstrating that understanding allocation adds explanatory power to understanding fine root productivity and total NPP. Fine root residence time was a function of multiple factors: soil sand content, soil pH, and maximum water deficit, with longest residence times in acidic, sandy, and water‐stressed soils. In tropical montane forests, on the other hand, a different set of relationships prevailed, highlighting the very different nature of montane and lowland forest biomes. Root productivity was a strong positive linear function of mean annual temperature, root residence time was a strong positive function of soil nitrogen content in montane forests, and lastly decreasing soil P content increased allocation of productivity to fine roots. In contrast to the lowlands, environmental conditions were a better predictor for fine root productivity than for fractional allocation of total NPP to fine roots, suggesting that root productivity is a particularly strong driver of NPP allocation in tropical mountain regions.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
1754647
NSF-PAR ID:
10449517
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  more » ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;   « less
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley-Blackwell
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Global Change Biology
Volume:
27
Issue:
15
ISSN:
1354-1013
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 3657-3680
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Vegetation processes are fundamentally limited by nutrient and water availability, the uptake of which is mediated by plant roots in terrestrial ecosystems. While tropical forests play a central role in global water, carbon, and nutrient cycling, we know very little about tradeoffs and synergies in root traits that respond to resource scarcity. Tropical trees face a unique set of resource limitations, with rock-derived nutrients and moisture seasonality governing many ecosystem functions, and nutrient versus water availability often separated spatially and temporally. Root traits that characterize biomass, depth distributions, production and phenology, morphology, physiology, chemistry, and symbiotic relationships can be predictive of plants’ capacities to access and acquire nutrients and water, with links to aboveground processes like transpiration, wood productivity, and leaf phenology. In this review, we identify an emerging trend in the literature that tropical fine root biomass and production in surface soils are greatest in infertile or sufficiently moist soils. We also identify interesting paradoxes in tropical forest root responses to changing resources that merit further exploration. For example, specific root length, which typically increases under resource scarcity to expand the volume of soil explored, instead can increase with greater base cation availability, both across natural tropical forest gradients and in fertilization experiments. Also, nutrient additions, rather than reducing mycorrhizal colonization of fine roots as might be expected, increased colonization rates under scenarios of water scarcity in some forests. Efforts to include fine root traits and functions in vegetation models have grown more sophisticated over time, yet there is a disconnect between the emphasis in models characterizing nutrient and water uptake rates and carbon costs versus the emphasis in field experiments on measuring root biomass, production, and morphology in response to changes in resource availability. Closer integration of field and modeling efforts could connect mechanistic investigation of fine-root dynamics to ecosystem-scale understanding of nutrient and water cycling, allowing us to better predict tropical forest-climate feedbacks. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    As climate warms, tree density at the taiga–tundra ecotone (TTE) is expected to increase, which may intensify competition for belowground resources in this nitrogen (N)‐limited environment. To determine the impacts of increased tree density on N cycling and productivity, we examined edaphic properties indicative of soil N availability along with aboveground and belowground tree‐level traits and stand characteristics related to carbon (C) and N cycling across a tree density gradient of monodominant larch (Larix cajanderi) at the TTE in far northeastern Siberia. We found no consistent evidence from soil, tree, or stand‐level N cycling characteristics of lower N availability or greater intraspecific competition for N with increased density. Active layer thickness declined, but resin‐sorbed N and soil organic layer thickness did not covary with increased tree density. There was, however, greater allocation belowground to stand‐level coarse and fine roots with increased tree density, an allocation pattern suggestive of limited soil resources. Foliar traits related to C (%C, δ13C, and resorption) were responsive to density indicating the importance of non‐nutrient resources, like light, to foliar stoichiometry. As tree density increased and individual trees had lower productivity, tree‐level N and biomass pools aboveground and belowground declined tracking decreases in N uptake, N resorption, N use efficiency, and allocation to slow cycling tissues like wood. At the stand level, our findings show high N turnover with increased N acquisition, allocation to short‐lived tissues with relatively high N content and reduced N residence time, and greater stand productivity as tree density increased. Yet, these positive relationships were curtailed at the highest tree densities. Our observations of shifts in biomass, C and N allocation, and loss aboveground, along with greater root density with increased tree density, could have strong impacts on C and N cycling and should be represented in models of TTE dynamics and feedbacks to climate.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Tropical forests exert a disproportionately large influence on terrestrial carbon (C) balance but projecting the effects of climate change on C cycling in tropical forests remains uncertain. Reducing this uncertainty requires improved quantification of the independent and interactive effects of variable and changing temperature and precipitation regimes on C inputs to, cycling within and loss from tropical forests. Here, we quantified aboveground litterfall and soil‐surface CO2efflux (“soil respiration”;FS) in nine plots organized across a highly constrained 5.2°C mean annual temperature (MAT) gradient in tropical montane wet forest. We used five consecutive years of these measurements, during which annual rainfall (AR) steadily increased, in order to: (a) estimate total belowground C flux (TBCF); (b) examine how interannual variation in AR alters the apparent temperature dependency (Q10) of above‐ and belowground C fluxes; and (c) quantify stand‐level C allocation responses to MAT and AR. Averaged across all years,FS, litterfall, and TBCF increased positively and linearly with MAT, which accounted for 49, 47, and 46% of flux rate variation, respectively. Rising AR lowered TBCF andFS, but increased litterfall, with patterns representing interacting responses to declining light. The Q10ofFS, litterfall, and TBCF all decreased with increasing AR, with peak sensitivity to MAT in the driest year and lowest sensitivity in the wettest. These findings support the conclusion that for this tropical montane wet forest, variations in light, water, and nutrient availability interact to strongly influence productivity (litterfall+TBCF), the sensitivity of above‐ and belowground C fluxes to rising MAT (Q10ofFS, litterfall, and TBCF), and C allocation patterns (TBCF:[litterfall+TBCF]).

     
    more » « less
  4. To assess relative production of fine roots in droughted and reference plots that are part of the Hubbard Brook DroughtNet study, mesh-free root ingrowth (total depth 20cm) were installed during most study years. Multiple subplots for destructive soil measurements were reserved within plots 7 and 8, and just outside reference plots 1 and 2 in 2015. Fine root production is a component of NPP that is often not well measured in global change experiments. The ingrowth core methodology used may not perfectly represent belowground NPP in the surrounding intact soil, but should provide a reliable metric of relative differences among plots and over time. These data were gathered as part of the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study (HBES). The HBES is a collaborative effort at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, which is operated and maintained by the USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Climate warming is expected to stimulate plant growth in high‐elevation and high‐latitude ecosystems, significantly increasing aboveground net primary production (ANPP). However, the effects of simultaneous changes in temperature, snowmelt timing, and summer water availability on total net primary production (NPP)—and elucidation of both above‐ and belowground responses—remain an important area in need of further study. In particular, measures of belowground net primary productivity (BNPP) are required to understand whether ANPP changes reflect changes in allocation or are indicative of a whole plant NPP response. Further, plant functional traits provide a key way to scale from the individual plant to the community level and provide insight into drivers of NPP responses to environmental change. We used infrared heaters to warm an alpine plant community at Niwot Ridge, Colorado, and applied supplemental water to compensate for soil water loss induced by warming. We measured ANPP, BNPP, and leaf and root functional traits across treatments after 5 yr of continuous warming. Community‐level ANPP and total NPP (ANPP + BNPP) did not respond to heating or watering, but BNPP increased in response to heating. Heating decreased community‐level leaf dry matter content and increased total root length, indicating a shift in strategy from resource conservation to acquisition in response to warming. Water use efficiency (WUE) decreased with heating, suggesting alleviation of moisture constraints that may have enabled the plant community to increase productivity. Heating may have decreased WUE by melting snow earlier and creating more days early in the growing season with adequate soil moisture, but stimulated dry mass investment in roots as soils dried down later in the growing season. Overall, this study highlights how ANPP and BNPP responses to climate change can diverge, and encourages a closer examination of belowground processes, especially in alpine systems, where the majority of NPP occurs belowground.

     
    more » « less