Plant and Soil

, Volume 305, Issue 1–2, pp 61–75 | Cite as

Scots pine root distribution derived from radial sap flow patterns in stems of large leaning trees

  • Jan Čermák
  • Nadezhda Nadezhdina
  • Linda Meiresonne
  • Reinhart Ceulemans
Regular Article


This study characterizes whole tree root system distribution in a non-destructive way based on its functional parameters, particularly the sap flow patterns in stems. This approach particularly considers sap flow variation across stems, both radial and circumferential patterns of flow that are usually used for a better integration of sap flow density at the whole tree level. We focused at: (1) Showing examples of sap flow variation across stems at a defined situation (high midday values at the period of non-limiting water supply; (2) Analyzing radial flow patterns in terms of root distribution; (3) Validating these results at the stand level (mean data of series of individual trees) using results of classical biometric methods used at the same site; and (4) Applying the results for evaluation of root distribution around leaning trees. Sap flow rate was measured by the heat deformation method on a set of 14 trees at an experimental pine forest stand in Brasschaat (Belgium) during the growing season of 2000. Sap flow variation across stems was measured at a total of 700 points. Amounts of water supplied by superficial (horizontally oriented) and sinker (vertically oriented) roots were estimated from sap flow patterns. The vertical distribution of absorbing roots as derived from the analysis of sap flow patterns in stem sapwood was very similar to the distribution determined by the classical biometric analysis of fine roots. Trees leaning to the East had stem radii at the stump level and crown radii enhanced in the leaning direction. Sinker roots showed higher absorption activities in the leaning direction, but superficial roots were more absorbing in the opposite direction. The application of the above-described method allows for a better evaluation of the whole-tree behavior and facilitates the evaluation of tree and stand properties in traditional forest stands, which are not equipped for detailed scientific research. This may also facilitate practical applications in landscape-level studies.


Sap flow patterns in stems Leaning trees Fine root distribution Non-destructive methods 



This research was performed within the framework of the CarboEurope Integrated Project financed by the EC Sixth Framework Program (contract No. GOCE-CT-2003-505572) and of the bilateral scientific exchange project VL-CS 94/95 (No. 1-2006-19) between the Flemish Community and the Czech Republic. Partial support was also provided by the COST action (No. E38.002): Testing of new instrumental methods for whole-tree root system measurements. We are obliged to Natacha Hoevenaegel from the Nieuwe Media Dienst of the University of Antwerp for help with the figures. The manuscript has been proofed for English language by the American Journal Experts (


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Čermák
    • 1
  • Nadezhda Nadezhdina
    • 1
  • Linda Meiresonne
    • 2
  • Reinhart Ceulemans
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Forest EcologyMendel University of Agriculture and ForestryBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Institute for Nature and Forestry Research (INBO)Ministry of the Flemish CommunityGeraardsbergenBelgium
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of AntwerpenWilrijkBelgium

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