Root density distribution and biomass allocation of co-occurring woody plants on contrasting soils in a subtropical savanna parkland

Yong Zhou, Stephen E. Watts, Thomas W. Boutton, Steven R. Archer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background and aims: Root niche partitioning among trees/shrubs and grasses facilitates their coexistence in savannas, but little is known regarding root distribution patterns of co-occurring woody plants, and how they might differ on contrasting soils. Methods: We quantified root distributions of co-occurring shrubs to 2 m on argillic and non-argillic soils. Results: Root biomass in the two shrub communities was 3- to 5- fold greater than that in the grassland community. Prosopis glandulosa, the dominant overstory species was deep-rooted, while the dominant understory shrub, Zanthoxylum fagara, was shallow-rooted (47% vs. 25% of root density at depths >0.4 m). Shrubs on argillic soils had less aboveground and greater belowground mass than those on non-argillic soils. Root biomass and density on argillic soils was elevated at shallow (< 0.4 m) depths, whereas root density of the same species on non-argillic soils were skewed to depths >0.4 m. Root density decreased exponentially with increasing distance from woody patch perimeters. Conclusions: Belowground biomass (carbon) pools increased markedly with grassland-to-shrubland state change. The presence/absence of a restrictive barrier had substantial effects on root distributions and above- vs. belowground biomass allocation. Differences in root distribution patterns of co-occurring woody species would facilitate their co-existence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPlant and Soil
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • Argillic horizon
  • Interspecific competition
  • Prosopis glandulosa
  • Root distribution
  • Soil profile
  • Subtropical savanna parkland
  • Woody patches
  • Woody plant encroachment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science

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