Unravelling the age of fine roots of temperate and boreal forests

Emily F. Solly, Ivano Brunner, Heljä-Sisko Marketta Helmisaari, Claude Herzog, Jaana Leppälammi-Kujansuu, Ingo Schöning, Marion Schrumpf, Fritz H Schweingruber, Susan E. Trumbore, Frank Hagedorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Fine roots support the water and nutrient demands of plants and supply carbon to soils. Quantifying turnover times of fine roots is crucial for modeling soil organic matter dynamics and constraining carbon cycle–climate feedbacks. Here we challenge widely used isotopebased estimates suggesting the turnover of fine roots of trees to be as slow as a decade. By recording annual growth rings of roots from woody plant species, we show that mean chronological ages of fine roots vary from <1 to 12 years in temperate, boreal and sub-arctic forests. Radiocarbon dating reveals the same roots to be constructed from 10 ± 1 year (mean ± 1 SE) older carbon. This dramatic difference provides evidence for a time lag between plant carbon assimilation and production of fine roots, most likely due to internal carbon storage. The high root turnover documented here implies greater carbon inputs into soils than previously thought which has wide-ranging implications for quantifying ecosystem carbon allocation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3006
JournalNature Communications
Volume9
Number of pages8
ISSN2041-1723
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 4112 Forestry
  • ECTOMYCORRHIZA L FUNGI
  • NONSTRUCTURAL CARBON
  • OLD CARBON
  • SCOTS PINE
  • RADIOCARBON
  • TURNOVER
  • TREES
  • ECOSYSTEMS
  • VEGETATION
  • SEEDLINGS
  • ECTOMYCORRHIZAL FUNGI
  • NONSTRUCTURAL CARBON
  • OLD CARBON
  • SCOTS PINE
  • RADIOCARBON
  • TURNOVER
  • TREES
  • ECOSYSTEMS
  • VEGETATION
  • SEEDLINGS

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