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Distribution of white spruce lateral fine roots as affected by the presence of trembling aspen: root mapping using simple sequence repeat DNA profiling

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Mixedwood forests of white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) and trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) may possess ecological advantages over monospecific white spruce stands. Belowground competition may be reduced through vertically stratified roots; facilitation of growth may occur in upper soil layers through nutrient-rich trembling aspen litterfall. These effects may incentivize white spruce to preferentially exploit upper soil layers in mixedwood stands, resulting in wider root systems. This research contrasted white spruce fine root (diameter <2 mm) distributions in organic layers of white spruce and mixedwood stands. Research occurred at the Fallingsnow Ecosystem Project site in northwestern Ontario. Eighteen plots represented mixedwood and pure white spruce stands. Trees were mapped; foliage and root samples were collected. Roots were separated by species and scanned to determine length. Simple sequence repeat DNA profiles were determined for all white spruce trees and for 45 white spruce root fragments per plot. Root and tree DNA profiles were matched; corresponding distances were calculated. Most (80%) root fragments were within 3.2 m of tree stems. Root prevalence decreased rapidly with distance. Organic layer pH was significantly less acidic in mixedwood plots, but only in one block. A subtle significant trend towards wider root distributions occurred in mixedwood stands.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Natural Resources Management, Lakehead University, 955 Oliver Road, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 5E1, Canada. 2: Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, 2447 Science Complex, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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