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Research article2022Peer reviewed

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

    Sustainable Development Goals

    Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

    Publication identifier


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