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Unravelling the age of fine roots of temperate and boreal forests


Solly, Emily F; Brunner, Ivano; Helmisaari, Heljä-Sisko; Herzog, Claude; Leppälammi-Kujansuu, Jaana; Schöning, Ingo; Schrumpf, Marion; Schweingruber, Fritz H; Trumbore, Susan E; Hagedorn, Frank (2018). Unravelling the age of fine roots of temperate and boreal forests. Nature Communications, 9(1):online.

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 isotope based 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.

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 isotope based 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.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Physics and Astronomy, General Chemistry
Language:English
Date:2018
Deposited On:22 Aug 2018 15:20
Last Modified:22 Aug 2018 15:20
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2041-1723
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-05460-6

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