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Change of allometry between coarse root and shoot of Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta DOUGL. ex. LOUD) along a stress gradient in the sub-boreal forest zone of British Columbia

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This transect study in 41–178 year-old stands of Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta DOUGL. ex. LOUD.) in the southern boreal forest of British Columbia, Canada, analyses how site conditions modify the coarse root–shoot dynamics of trees. The allometric relationship between diameter growth of coarse roots and trunk is scrutinised for long-term site dependence, and short-term reactions to periodic climate conditions. Along a gradient from poor to rich sites, we analysed 54 trees. The sampling scheme provided two increment cores each from the three main roots and the shoot at breast height per tree. From the year-ring series, we calculated diameter time series for each shoot and each root. With these data, we show (1) that the trees’ coarse root diameter and shoot diameter are linearly related in a double-logarithmic coordinate system, thus representing constant allometry on the long run. Statistical analysis of these long-term trajectories reveals that (2) the relative allocation to coarse roots versus shoot is much higher on poor sites compared to rich sites. A closer look at the short-term reaction to stress events in the period from 1995 to 2000, where several dry years occurred, underpins that (3) a lack of water supply triggers biomass allocation in favour of coarse roots at the expense of shoot growth most pronouncedly on poor sites. Implications of this morphological plasticity for allometric theory, method development, tree and stand dynamics and carbon storage assessment are discussed.
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Keywords: Morphological plasticity; carbon storage; root–shoot allometry; root–shoot ratio; site–growth relationship; stress-gradient hypothesis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Forest Growth and Yield,Technische Universität München, Freising, Germany 2: Ministry of Forests,Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Smithers,BC, Canada

Publication date: 01 September 2012

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