Variation in fine root traits with thinning intensity in a Chinese fir plantation insights from branching order and functional groups

Sci Rep. 2021 Nov 22;11(1):22710. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-02206-1.

ABSTRACT

Thinning is a widely used practice in forest management, but the acclimation mechanisms of fine roots to forest thinning are still unclear. We examined the variations in fine root traits of different branching orders and functional groups along a thinning intensity gradient in a 26-year-old Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) plantation. With increasing thinning intensity, the root C concentration (RCC), root N concentration (RNC), specific root area (SRA), and specific root length (SRL) of the absorptive roots (the first two orders) significantly decreased, while root abundance (root biomass and root length density) and root tissue density (RTD) significantly increased. Fifty-four percent of the variation in the absorptive root traits could be explained by the soil N concentration and the biomass and diversity of the understorey vegetation. Conversely, transport root (third- and higher-order) traits did not vary significantly among different thinning intensities. The covariation of absorptive root traits across thinning intensities regarding two dimensions was as follows: the first dimension (46% of the total variation) represented changes in root abundance and chemical traits (related to RCC, RNC), belonging to an extensive foraging strategy; the second dimension (41% of the total variation) represented variations in root morphological traits (related to RTD, SRL and SRA), which is an intensive foraging strategy (i.e., root economic spectrum). These results suggested that the absorptive roots of Chinese fir adopt two-dimensional strategies to acclimate to the altered surroundings after thinning.

PMID:34811461 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-021-02206-1

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