Jump to Main Content
Comparative root system structure of post-fire Pinus halepensis Mill. and Cistus monspeliensis L saplings
- Martinez-Sanchez, J.J., Ferrandis, P., Trabaud, L., Galindo, R., Franco, J.A., Herranz, J.M.
- Plant ecology 2003 v.168 no.2 pp. 309-320
- Pinus halepensis, Cistus, coniferous forests, forest trees, fires, root systems, root growth, interspecific competition, intraspecific competition, soil nutrients, ecological succession, branching, plant morphology, Spain
- To describe root system topology of Pinus halepensis and Cistus monspeliensis saplings co-inhabiting natural post-fire sites, 55 P. halepensis and 26 C. monspeliensis saplings were extracted by the total excavation method from a burnt pine stand. Seedlings were individually labelled when emerging after fire and extracted three years later, at the sapling phase. In order to evaluate the effect of inter-specific competition of C. monspeliensis on P. halepensis root system, a stratified sampling was carried out according to density and height of the saplings. Topological parameters considered in the analysis were magnitude, total external pathlength, and altitude of the root systems. Weight and length of roots were also measured in order to estimate the specific root length, an index commonly used in morphological studies. Results clearly evidenced greater variability in root system topology of P. halepensis than C. monspeliensis saplings. Herringbone architecture (i.e., the most ordered pattern possible, with branching confined to the main axis) characterised small pine saplings, regardless of competition from C. monspeliensis, which changed to random branching in large saplings. In medium sized saplings, the root system was affected by inter-specific competition, which delayed changes in root branching. In contrast, C. monspeliensis invariably adopted randomly branched architecture, regardless of intra-specific competition. It is concluded that such different topological patterns make C. monspeliensis more competitive during the early stages of post-fire succession, because its root system is much more transport-efficient in the nutrient-rich environment. Those pines which finally branch roots by random pattern will reach higher stem height and magnitude, a factor which allows them to successfully compete with C. monspeliensis for soil nutrients and water. The morphological analysis showed a significant increase in the specific root length with competition, both in P. halepensis and C. monspeliensis saplings, which could be interpreted as a consequence of the reduction of root diameter in response to nutrient depletion.