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The Distribution of Root Length, and the Limits to Flow of Soil Water to Roots in a Dry Sclerophyll Forest

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Abstract:

Field measurements in jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata Sm.) forests in southwestern Australia showed that most of the total root length consisted of fine roots. A typical soil profile had a surface horizon of sandy soil, which contained 340 cm of root per cm² of ground surface. The deeper horizons were sandy loam and clay, extending to depths of 20 m. These had less roots, and the total root length for the whole profile was an average of 480 cm per cm² of ground surface. Calculations based on root length, soil properties, and soil water content were used to find the limits to the rate of flow of soil water to roots, especially during seasonal droughts. The presence of deep roots was important for determining these limits, but the limits were insensitive to wide variations in root length. The properties of the soil, and the capacity of trees to maintain an adequately low root water potential, were important determinants of limits to flow of soil water to roots. Forest Sci. 26:656-664.

Keywords: Eucalypt forest; root length distribution; soil water characteristics

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: The Division of Land Resources Management, Institute of Earth Resources, CSIRO, Private Bag, P.O. Wembley, Western Australia 6014

Publication date: December 1, 1980

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