Changes in Fine Root System Size and Structure During Secondary Succession in a Costa Rican Montane Oak Forest

2006 | book part

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​Changes in Fine Root System Size and Structure During Secondary Succession in a Costa Rican Montane Oak Forest​
Hertel, D. ; Hölscher, D. ; Köhler, L.  & Leuschner, C. ​ (2006)
In:​Kappelle, Maarten​ (Ed.), Ecology and Conservation of Neotropical Montane Oak Forests pp. 283​-297. ​Berlin/Heidelberg: ​Springer. DOI: 

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Hertel, Dietrich ; Hölscher, Dirk ; Köhler, Lars ; Leuschner, Christoph 
Kappelle, Maarten
This case study on successional forest stages in the Cordillera de Talamanca showed that conversion of the old-growth forest led to significant changes not only in above-ground stand structure, but also in the carbon and nutrient pools of the soil. Consequently, below-ground structure of the two secondary and the old-growth forest differed markedly: we found an increase in biomass, surface area, and root tip abundance of the fine root system with increasing age of the forests. Whether this is a consequence of an increasing nutrient demand of the mid- and late-successional forests remains unclear. A progressive decoupling of the nutrient cycle between trees and mineral soil, and the simultaneous build-up of large nutrient pools in the organic layer with secondary succession most likely is one cause of the enlargement of the fine root system in this organic horizon. Review of available literature data showed that the total fine root mass (live and dead total) of secondary forests in the humid tropics seems to increase with stand age. This trend was found to be more pronounced at sites with more acidic soils. Increases in both fine root necromass and in fine root biomass with secondary succession are thought to be responsible for high root masses in late-successional forests. Comparison with data from other tropical forests confirmed that a large fine root biomass, as recorded in the old-growth forest in this study, is a typical attribute of tropical high-elevation forests. Although high fine root biomasses are also found in certain tropical lowland forests, forests above 2,000 m a.s.l. had significantly higher biomasses than those at lower altitudes. It is hypothesised that reduced nutrient availability is a key factor for this elevational increase in fine root biomass.
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Fakultät für Forstwissenschaften und Waldökologie ; Burckhardt-Institut ; Abteilung Waldbau und Waldökologie der Tropen 
Ecological Studies 



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