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Which processes drive fine root elongation in a natural mountain forest ecosystem?

Mao Z., Bonis M.L., Rey H., Saint André L., Stokes A., Jourdan C.. 2013. Plant Ecology and Diversity, 6 (2) : p. 231-243.

DOI: 10.1080/17550874.2013.788567

Background: Quantifying the dynamics of root growth is vital when characterising the role of vegetation in carbon cycling. Aims: We examined the temporal dynamics of root growth and responses to spatial (altitude, forest patchiness and soil depth) and biological factors (root diameter and root topology) in mid-montane and upper montane coniferous forest ecosystems. Methods: Using rhizotrons, two indicators were investigated: occurrence, i.e. the proportion of roots which had elongated since the previous measurement of root elongation (%), and daily root elongation speed (mm d?1) once the elongation occurred. Results: Spatial factors had a limited effect on root growth. Roots in the same diameter class possessed different elongation speeds and this was related to topological ranking, reflecting a disparity in physiological activity. Temporally, the occurrence of root elongation reached a peak in May-October (up to 90%) and sharply dropped after October 2010. The maximum root elongation speed (mean: 3.0 mm d?1) was measured in July-August. Root growth was the most inactive in February 2011 but some roots still exhibited positive elongation speeds (mean: 0.5 mm d?1). Occurrence and speed of elongation reacted differently with regard to environmental and biological factors. Conclusions: Temporal and biological factors contributed more towards explaining the variability of root growth than spatial factors. In future studies, both occurrence and speed of elongation should be used to characterise root growth. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : forêt tropicale; Écosystème forestier; pinales; racine; dimension; enracinement; croissance; saison; altitude; espacement; Écologie forestière; france; alpes

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