Zang, U; Lamersdorf, NP; Borken, W: Response of the fine root system in a Norway spruce stand to 13 years of reduced atmospheric nitrogen and acidity input, Plant Soil, 339, 435-445 (2011), doi:DOI 10.1007/s11104-010-0598-5
Atmospheric inputs of acids and nitrogen (N) have altered growth and vitality of forests for decades, but there is a lack of understanding concerning the response of these forests to reduced deposition. We studied fine root parameters of a Norway spruce stand treated with reduced input (clean rain) for 13 years. Fine roots of the clean rain plot had smaller N and Al contents, however, fine roots in the subsoil were still subjected to soil acidity and Al toxicity as indicated by a fine root Ca/Al ratio of less than 0.5. The treatment effect was most pronounced in the organic layer of the clean rain plot where fine root biomass increased by 66% and the live/dead ratio of fine roots increased by more than 100%. The elevated live/dead ratio was attributed to reduced mortality and faster decomposition of fine root litter. The latter was supported by a positive elationship between live/dead ratio and manganese content of fine roots. In contrast to the organic layer, fine root biomass was not different in the mineral soil. However, at 20–40 cm fine root diameter was greater and specific root tip density was smaller than in the topsoil likely because of strong N limitation as indicated by a C/N ratio of >50. Based on these morphological changes we postulate differing functional properties of fine roots in the organic layer and mineral soil below 20 cm depth. Further, our results suggest that Picea abies is able to adapt morphology and functional traits of its root system following reduced N availability. Keywords Solling roof project, Norway spruce, Atmospheric deposition, Fine roots, Re-establishment
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