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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Examination of aboveground attributes to predict belowground biomass of young trees

Annighoefer, Peter; Mund, Martina; Seidel, Dominik; Ammer, Christian; Ameztegui, Aitor; Balandier, Philippe; Bebre, Ieva; Coll, Lluis; Collet, Catherine; Hamm, Tobias; Huth, Franka; Schneider, Heike; Kuehne, Christian; Loef, Magnus; Petritan, Any Mary; Petritan, Ion Catalin; Peter, Schall; Juergen, Bauhus


Just as the aboveground tree organs represent the interface between trees and the atmosphere, roots act as the interface between trees and the soil. In this function, roots take-up water and nutrients, facilitate interactions with soil microflora, anchor trees, and also contribute to the gross primary production of forests. However, in comparison to aboveground plant organs, the biomass of roots is much more difficult to study. In this study, we analyzed 19 European datasets on above- and belowground biomass of juvenile trees of 14 species to identify generalizable estimators of root biomass based on tree sapling dimensions (e.g. height, diameter, aboveground biomass). Such estimations are essential growth and sequestration modelling. In addition, the intention was to study the effect of sapling dimension and light availability on biomass allocation to roots. All aboveground variables were significant predictors for root biomass. But, among aboveground predictors of root biomass plant height performed poorest. When comparing conifer and broadleaf species, the latter tended to have a higher root biomass at a given dimension. Also, with increasing size, the share of belowground biomass tended to increase for the sapling dimensions considered. In most species, there was a trend of increasing relative belowground biomass with increasing light availability. Finally, the height to diameter ratio (H/D) was negatively correlated to relative belowground biomass. This indicates that trees with a high H/D are not only more unstable owing to the unfavorable bending stress resistance, but also because they are comparatively less well anchored in the ground. Thus, single tree stability may be improved through increasing light availability to increase the share of belowground biomass.


Biomass allometry; Forest regeneration; Seedlings; Saplings; Root to shoot ratio; Height to diameter ratio

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2022, volume: 505, article number: 119942
Publisher: ELSEVIER

Authors' information

Annighoefer, Peter
Technical University of Munich
Mund, Martina
University of Gottingen
Seidel, Dominik
University of Gottingen
Ammer, Christian
University of Gottingen
Ameztegui, Aitor
Universitat de Lleida
Balandier, Philippe
Universitat de Lleida
Bebre, Ieva
University of Gottingen
Coll, Lluis
Universitat de Lleida
Collet, Catherine
Hamm, Tobias
Dresden University of Technology (TUD)
Huth, Franka
Dresden University of Technology (TUD)
Schneider, Heike
German Federal Environmental Foundation Naturerbe
Kuehne, Christian
Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre
Petritan, Any Mary
National Research and Development Institute in Forestry Marin Dracea
Petritan, Ion Catalin
Transylvania University of Brasov
Peter, Schall
University of Gottingen
Juergen, Bauhus
University of Freiburg

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

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