Fine root biomass, production and turnover rates in plantations versus natural forests: effects of stand characteristics and soil properties

  • Huiying Cai
  • Fengri Li
  • Guangze JinEmail author
Regular Article



Fine roots play a significant role in regulating the biogeochemical cycles of forest ecosystems, but how fine root biomass (FRB), production (FRP) and turnover rates (FRT) vary with forest origins remains not well understood.


The meta-analysis approach was used to examine the differences in FRB, FRP and FRT between plantations and their adjacent natural forests based on 238 cases reported in 45 published studies.


FRB and FRP were 36.5% and 36.0% lower, respectively, in plantations than in natural forests. FRT was 22.4% higher in plantations relative to natural forests. The decrease in FRB in plantations relative to natural forests varied among plantations with different plant genera and root diameter classes. The general patterns for FRP and FRT in relation to various factors (biogeographic zone, leaf form, leaf seasonality, plant genus in plantations, and root diameter class) did not differ among the groups. The difference in FRB between plantations and natural forests was positively correlated with stand age but negatively related with soil total nitrogen concentration, the difference in FRP was positively affected by diameter at breast height (DBH) and soil pH, and the difference in FRT was positively affected by DBH, tree height, soil bulk density and soil pH and negatively affected by soil organic carbon and total nitrogen concentration.


FRB, FRP and FRT exhibit significant differences between plantations and natural forests and that these differences are partially caused by shifts in stand characteristics and variations in soil properties.


Fine roots Forest origins Planted forests Stand structure Soil nutrient 



We thank all the researchers whose data were used in this study and anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31730015), the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation Funded Project (No. 2017M621232) and the Heilongjiang Postdoctoral Foundation (No. LBH-Z17004).

Supplementary material

11104_2019_3948_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (38 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 37 kb)
11104_2019_3948_MOESM2_ESM.docx (201 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 201 kb)


  1. Adams DC, Gurevith J, Rosenberg MS (1997) Resampling tests for meta-analysis of ecological data. Ecology 78:1277–1283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. An JY, Park BB, Chun JH, Osawa A (2017) Litterfall production and fine root dynamics in cool-temperate forests. PLoS One 12:e0180126CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Bai WM, Wang ZW, Chen QS, Zhang WH, Li LH (2008) Spatial and temporal effects of nitrogen addition on root life span of Leymus chinensis in a typical steppe of Inner Mongolia. Funct Ecol 22:583–591CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bloom AJ, Chapin FS, Mooney HA (1985) Resource limitation in plants: an economic analogy. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 16:363–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Børja I, De Wit HA, Steffenrem A, Majdi H (2008) Stand age and fine root biomass, distribution and morphology in a Norway spruce chronosequence in Southeast Norway. Tree Physiol 28:773–784CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brassard BW, Chen HYH, Cavard X, Laganière J, Reich PB, Bergeron Y, Paré D, Yuan Z (2013) Tree species diversity increases fine root productivity through increased soil volume filling. J Ecol 101:210–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burton AJ, Pregitzer KS, Hendrick RL (2000) Relationships between fine root dynamics and nitrogen availability in Michigan northern hardwood forests. Oecologia 125:389–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cai HY, Di XY, Chang SX, Wang CK, Shi BK, Geng PF, Jin GZ (2016) Carbon storage, net primary production, and net ecosystem production in four major temperate forest types in northeastern China. Can J For Res 46:143–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Campos A, Cruz L, Rocha S (2017) Mass, nutrient pool, and mineralization of litter and fine roots in a tropical mountain cloud forest. Sci Total Environ 575:876–886CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chen GS, Yang ZJ, Gao R, Xie JS, Guo JF, Huang ZQ, Yang YS (2013) Carbon storage in a chronosequence of Chinese fir plantations in southern China. For Ecol Manag 300:68–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chia RW, Kim DG, Yimer F (2017) Can afforestation with Cupressus lusitanica restore soil C and N stocks depleted by crop cultivation to levels observed under native systems? Agric Ecosyst Environ 242:67–75Google Scholar
  12. Claus A, George E (2005) Effect of stand age on fine-root biomass and biomass distribution in three European forest chronosequences. Can J For Res 35:1617–1625CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eissenstat DM, Yanai RD (2002) Root life span, efficiency, and turnover. Plant roots: the hidden half. Marcel Dekker, New York, pp 221–238Google Scholar
  14. Finér L, Ohashi M, Noguchi K, Hirano Y (2011a) Factors causing variation in fine root biomass in forest ecosystems. For Ecol Manag 261:265–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Finér L, Ohashi M, Noguchi K, Hirano Y (2011b) Fine root production and turnover in forest ecosystems in relation to stand and environmental characteristics. For Ecol Manag 262:2008–2023CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Guo Q, Ren H (2014) Productivity as related to diversity and age in planted versus natural forests. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 23:1461–1471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hedges LV, Gurevitch J, Curtis PS (1999) The meta-analysis of response ratios in experimental ecology. Ecology 80:1150–1156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Helmisaari HS, Derome J, Nöjd P, Kukkola M (2007) Fine root biomass in relation to site and stand characteristics in Norway spruce and scots pine stands. Tree Physiol 27:1493–1504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hu SD, Li YF, Chang SX, Li YC, Yang WJ, Fu WJ, Liu J, Jiang PK, Lin ZW (2018) Soil autotrophic and heterotrophic respiration respond differently to land-use change and variations in environmental factors. Agric For Meteorol 250:290–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jackson RB, Canadell J, Ehleringer JR, Mooney HA, Sala OE, Schulze ED (1996) A global analysis of root distributions for terrestrial biomes. Oecologia 108:389–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jackson RB, Mooney H, Schulze ED (1997) A global budget for fine root biomass, surface area, and nutrient contents. Proc Natl Acad Sci 94:7362–7366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jackson RB, Schenk HJ, Jobbágy EG, Canadell J, Colello GD, Dickinson RE, Field CB, Friedlingstein P, Heimann M, Hibbard K, Kicklighter DW, Kleidon A, Neilson RP, Parton WJ, Sala OE, Sykes MT (2000) Belowground consequences of vegetation change and their treatment in models. Ecol Appl 10:470–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jackson RB, Jobbágy EG, Avissar R, Roy SB, Barrett DJ, Cook CW, Farley KA, le Maitre DC, McCarl BA, Murray BC (2005) Trading water for carbon with biological carbon sequestration. Science 310:1944–1947CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kooch Y, Rostayee F, Hosseini SM (2016) Effects of tree species on topsoil properties and nitrogen cycling in natural forest and tree plantations of northern Iran. Catena 144:65–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kotowska MM, Leuschner C, Triadiati T, Meriem S, Hertel D (2015a) Quantifying above-and belowground biomass carbon loss with forest conversion in tropical lowlands of Sumatera (Indonesia). Glob Chang Biol 21:3620–3634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kotowska MM, Leuschner C, Triadiati T, Hertel D (2015b) Conversion of tropical lowland forest reduces nutrient return through litterfall, and alters nutrient use efficiency and seasonality of net primary production. Oecologia 180:601–618CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lee EH, Tingey DT, Beedlow PA, Johnson MG, Burdick CA (2007) Relating fine root biomass to soil and climate conditions in the pacific northwest. For Ecol Manag 242:195–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leuschner C, Hertel D (2003) Fine root biomass of temperate forests in relation to soil acidity and fertility, climate, age and species. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, pp 405–438Google Scholar
  29. Li Z, Kurz WA, Apps MJ, Beukema SJ (2003) Belowground biomass dynamics in the carbon budget model of the Canadian Forest sector: recent improvements and implications for the estimation of NPP and NEP. Can J For Res 33:126–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Liao CZ, Luo YQ, Fang CM, Li B (2010) Ecosystem carbon stock influenced by plantation practice: implications for planting forests as a measure of climate change mitigation. PLoS One 5:e10867CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  31. Liao CZ, Luo YQ, Fang CM, Chen JK, Li B (2012) The effects of plantation practice on soil properties based on the comparison between natural and planted forests: a meta-analysis. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 21:318–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lin DM, Lai JS, Yang B, Song P, Li N, Ren HB, Ma KP (2015) Forest biomass recovery after different anthropogenic disturbances: relative importance of changes in stand structure and wood density. Eur J For Res 134:769–780CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Luo YQ, Hui DF, Zhang DQ (2006) Elevated CO2 stimulates net accumulations of carbon and nitrogen in land ecosystems: a meta-analysis. Ecology 87:53–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ma ZL, Chen HYH (2016) Effects of species diversity on fine root productivity in diverse ecosystems: a global meta-analysis. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 25:1387–1396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McCormack ML, Adams TS, Smithwick EAH, Eissenstat DM (2012) Predicting fine root lifespan from plant functional traits in temperate trees. New Phytol 195:823–831CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McCormack ML, Dickie IA, Eissenstat DM, Fahey TJ, Fernandez CW, Guo DL, Helmisaari HS, Hobbie EA, Iversen CM, Jackson RB, Leppalammi-Kujansuu J, Norby RJ, Phillips RP, Pregitzer KS, Pritchard SG, Rewald B, Zadworny M (2015) Redefining fine roots improves understanding of below-ground contributions to terrestrial biosphere processes. New Phytol 207:505–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mueller KE, Tilman D, Fornara DA, Hobbie SE (2013) Root depth distribution and the diversity-productivity relationship in a long-term grassland experiment. Ecology 94:787–793CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mujuru L, Gotora T, Velthorst EJ, Nyamangara J, Hoosbeek MR (2014) Soil carbon and nitrogen sequestration over an age sequence of Pinus patula plantations in Zimbabwean eastern highlands. For Ecol Manag 313:254–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nadelhoffer KJ (2000) The potential effects of nitrogen deposition on fine-root production in forest ecosystems. New Phytol 147:131–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Peng Y, Guo D, Yang Y (2017) Global patterns of root dynamics under nitrogen enrichment. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 26:102–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pransiska Y, Triadiati T, Tjitrosoedirjo S, Hertel D, Kotowska MM (2016) Forest conversion impacts on the fine and coarse root system, and soil organic matter in tropical lowlands of Sumatera (Indonesia). For Ecol Manag 379:288–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Quan XK, Wang CK, Zhang QZ, Wang XC, Luo YQ, Bond-Lamberty B (2010) Dynamics of fine roots in five Chinese temperate forests. J Plant Res 123:497–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ren XY, Lv YY, Li MS (2017) Evaluating differences in forest fragmentation and restoration between western natural forests and southeastern plantation forests in the United States. J Environ Manag 188:268–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schenk HJ, Jackson RB (2002) The global biogeography of roots. Ecol Monogr 72:311–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Silva AKL, Vasconcelos SS, de Carvalho CJR, Cordeiro IMCC (2011) Litter dynamics and fine root production in Schizolobium parahyba var. amazonicum plantations and regrowth forest in eastern Amazon. Plant Soil 347:377–386Google Scholar
  46. Smith CK, Oliveira FDA, Gholz HL, Baima A (2002) Soil carbon stocks after forest conversion to tree plantations in lowland Amazonia, Brazil. For Ecol Manag 164:257–263Google Scholar
  47. Stephenson NL, Das AJ, Condit R, Russo SE, Baker PJ, Beckman NG, Coomes DA, Lines ER, Morris WK, Rüger N, Álvarez E, Blundo C, Bunyavejchewin S, Chuyong G, Davies SJ, Duque Á, Ewango CN, Flores O, Franklin JF, Grau HR, Hao Z, Harmon ME, Hubbell SP, Kenfack D, Lin Y, Makana JR, Malizia A, Malizia LR, Pabst RJ, Pongpattananurak N, Su SH, Sun IF, Tan S, Thomas D, van Mantgem PJ, Wang X, Wiser SK, Zavala MA (2014) Rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size. Nature 507:90–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Valle SR, Carrasco J, Pinochet D, Calderini DF (2009) Grain yield, above-ground and root biomass of Al-tolerant and Al-sensitive wheat cultivars under different soil aluminum concentrations at field conditions. Plant Soil 318:299–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. van Dijk AIJM, Keenan RJ (2007) Planted forests and water in perspective. For Ecol Manag 251:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Vogt KA, Vogt DJ, Moore EE, Fatuga BA, Redlin MR, Edmonds RL (1987) Conifer and angiosperm fine-root biomass in relation to stand age and site productivity in Douglas-fir forests. J Ecol 75:857–870CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vogt KA, Vogt DJ, Bloomfield J (1998) Analysis of some direct and indirect methods for estimating root biomass and production of forests at an ecosystem level. Plant Soil 200:71–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Waisel Y, Eshel A, Kafkafi U (2002) Plant roots: the hidden half. Marcel Dekker, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Wall A, Hytönen J (2005) Soil fertility of afforested arable land compared to continuously. Plant Soil 275:247–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Xiang WH, Fan GW, Lei PF, Zeng YL, Tong J, Fang X, Deng XW, Peng CH (2015) Fine root interactions in subtropical mixed forests in China depend on tree species composition. Plant Soil 395:335–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Yang YS, Chen GS, Lin P, Xie JS, Guo JF (2004) Fine root distribution, seasonal pattern and production in four plantations compared with a natural forest in subtropical China. Ann For Sci 61:617–627CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yuan ZY, Chen HYH (2010) Fine root biomass, production, turnover rates, and nutrient contents in boreal forest ecosystems in relation to species, climate, fertility, and stand age: literature review and meta-analyses. Crit Rev Plant Sci 29:204–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Yuan ZY, Chen HYH (2012) A global analysis of fine root production as affected by soil nitrogen and phosphorus. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 279:3796–3802CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Zhang Y, Chen HYH, Reich PB (2012) Forest productivity increases with evenness, species richness and trait variation: a global meta-analysis. J Ecol 100:742–749CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Zheng H, Ouyang ZY, Xu WH, Wang XK, Miao H, Li XQ, Tian YX (2008) Variation of carbon storage by different reforestation types in the hilly red soil region of southern China. For Ecol Manag 255:1113–1121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zhou ZH, Wang CK, Zheng MH, Jiang LF, Luo YQ (2017) Patterns and mechanisms of responses by soil microbial communities to nitrogen addition. Soil Biol Biochem 115:433–441CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ForestryNortheast Forestry UniversityHarbinChina
  2. 2.Center for Ecological ResearchNortheast Forestry UniversityHarbinChina

Personalised recommendations