The response of belowground carbon allocation in forests to global change
Belowground carbon allocation (BCA) in forests regulates soil organic matter formation and influences biotic and abiotic properties of soil such as bulk density, cation exchange capacity, and water holding capacity. On a global scale, the total quantity of carbon allocated belowground by terrestrial plants is enormous, exceeding by an order of magnitude the quantity of carbon emitted to the atmosphere through combustion of fossil fuels. Despite the importance of BCA to the functioning of plant and soil communities, as well as the global carbon budget, controls on BCA are relatively poorly understood. Consequently, our ability to predict how BCA will respond to changes in atmospheric greenhouse gases, climate, nutrient deposition, and plant community composition remains rudimentary. this synthesis, we examine BCA from three perspectives: coarse-root standing stock, belowground net primary production (BNPP), and total belowground carbon allocation (TBCA). For each, we examine methodologies and methodological constraints, as well as constraints of terminology. We then examine available data for any predictable variation in BCA due to changes in species cohposition, mean annual temperature, or elevated C02 in existing Free Air C02 Exposure (FACE) experiments. Finally, we discuss what we feel are important future directions for belowground carbon allocation research, with a focus on global change issues.