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Root biomass and soil carbon distribution in hybrid poplar riparian buffers, herbaceous riparian buffers and natural riparian woodlots on farmland

Fortier, J.;B. Truax;D. Gagnon;F. Lambert. 2013.


The objectives of this study were to compare coarse root (diameter > 2 mm) and fine root (diameter < 2 mm) biomass, as well as distribution of soil carbon stocks in 3 types of riparian land uses across 4 sites located in farmland of southern Québec, Canada: (1) hybrid poplar buffers (9th growing season); (2) herbaceous buffers; (3) natural woodlots (varying in tree species and age). For all land uses most of the root biomass was within the 0%u201320 cm depth range. Total coarse root biomass, to a 60 cm depth, ranged from 8.8-73.7 t/ha in woodlots, 0.6- 1.3 t/ha in herbaceous buffers, and 9.2-27.3 t/ha in poplars. Total fine root biomass ranged from 2.68-8.64 t/ha in woodlots, 2.60-3.29 t/ha in herbaceous buffers, and 1.86-2.62 t/ha in poplars. Total root biomass was similar or higher in poplar buffers compared to a 27 year-old grey birch forest. This indicates that poplar buffers accelerated riparian soil colonisation by roots compared to natural secondary succession. Generally, fine root biomass in the surface soil (0%u201320 cm) was lower in poplar than in herbaceous buffers; the reverse was observed at greater depth. Highest coarse root biomass in the 40%u201360 cm depth range was observed in a poplar buffer, highlighting the deep rooted nature of poplars. On average, total soil C stocks (0%u201360 cm) were greater in woodlots than in riparian buffers. On most sites, soil C stocks tended to be lower in poplar buffers compared to adjacent herbaceous buffers, especially in surface soil, probably because of lower fine root biomass in poplar buffers. Across all sites and land uses, highest soil C stocks at the different soil depths were found in the soil layers of woodlots that also had the greatest fine root biomass. Strong positive linear relationships between fine root biomass and soil C stocks in the 0%u201320 cm depth range (R2 = 0.79, p < 0.001), and in the whole soil profile (0%u201360 cm) (R2 = 0.65, p < 0.01), highlight the central role of fine root biomass in maintaining or increasing soil C stocks.

Key Words

Agroforestry; Afforestation; Agriculture; Land use; Coarse roots; Fine roots; Vertical distribution