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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Kwatcho Kengdo, S; Ahrens, B; Tian, Y; Heinzle, J; Wanek, W; Schindlbacher, A; Borken, W: Increase in carbon input by enhanced fine root turnover in a long-term warmed forest soil, Science of the Total Environment, 855, 158800 (2023), doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.158800
Fine root litter represents an important carbon input to soils, but the effect of global warming on fine root turnover (FRT) is hardly explored in forest ecosystems. Understanding tree fine roots' response to warming is crucial for predicting soil carbon dynamics and the functioning of forests as a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). We studied fine root production (FRP) with ingrowth cores and used radiocarbon signatures of first-order, second- to thirdorder, and bulk fine roots to estimate fine root turnover times after 8 and 14 years of soil warming (+4 °C) in a temperate forest. Fine root turnover times of the individual root fractions were estimated with a one-pool model. Soil warming strongly increased fine root production by up to 128 % within one year, but after two years, the production was less pronounced (+35 %). The first-year production was likely very high due to the rapid exploitation of the rootfree ingrowth cores. The radiocarbon signatures of fine roots were overall variable among treatments and plots. Soil warming tended to decrease fine root turnover times of all the measured root fractions after 8 and 14 years of warming, and there was a tendency for trees to use older carbon reserves for fine root production in warmed plots. Furthermore, soil warming increased fine root turnover from 50 to 106 g C m−2 yr−1 (based on two different approaches). Our findings suggest that future climate warming may increase carbon input into soils by enhancing fine root turnover. If this increase may partly offset carbon losses by increased mineralization of soil organic matter in temperate forest soils is still unclear and should guide future research.
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