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Fine roots branch orders of Abies faxoniana respond differentially to warming in a subalpine coniferous forest ecosystem

Update time: 10/10/2017

Root is an important plant organ and has high heterogeneity. Global warming could change root and affect belowground ecological processes. There is little information on how fine roots branch orders responds to global change. This study examined the growth, morphological and physiological responses of fine roots of a subalpine coniferous species to warming. We investigated biomass, average diameter, specific root length (SRL), triphenyltetrazolium chloride (TTC) reducing capacity, carbon (C), total non-structural carbon (TNC) and fractions of the primal five branch order roots of Abies faxoniana in April, August, October and December. The decrease in total fine roots biomass after a growing season was significantly greater under warming treatment compared to control, suggesting that warming could accelerate the carbon input from root to soil, but the increment depended on tree species. Warming did not affect average diameter and SRL. Responses of biomass, TTC reducing capacity, C, TNC and fractions to warming significantly differed with root order and month. Significant warming effects were only observed in C and starch concentration of the first order and also TNC and soluble sugar concentration of the first three orders. The results indicated that the lower order roots (the first three orders) were more sensitive to warming, probably because they had more frequent, intense interactions with soil and low defense capability. Thus, global warming may dramatically alter root functions such as nutrients and water uptake as well as the cycle of C and nutrients at the whole subalpine coniferous forest ecosystem.