Readily available resources across sites and genotypes result in greater aboveground growth and reduced fine root production in Pinus taeda
Fine roots serve as the primary interface between trees and the soil, and they are dynamic in their response to environmental conditions. Among many functions, they are principle in gathering nutrients and water, and they constitute a major component of the tree. Their overall contribution to soil carbon flux is not well understood, nor is the effect of site and genotype on their dynamics, and these factors are crucial to understanding nutrient cycles and tree growth under variable conditions. This study evaluated how the fine root dynamics of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) might be different between genotypes and on different sites. Three loblolly pine plantations were established, two in 2009 in North Carolina (NC) and Virginia (VA), and one in 2011 in Brazil (BR). Root biomass was estimated with soil cores across the three sites and between two genotypes in 2020. Seasonal and annual fine root production was measured at the NC and VA sites over the 12th growing season using ingrowth cores. The trees in BR that were two years younger were much larger than those in NC and VA and had more fine root biomass at initial sampling than those in NC, despite similar levels of fertility. Meanwhile, fine root production rates decreased with higher rates of aboveground productivity across all measured plots in NC and VA. These results indicate that (1) standing fine root biomass may be related to environmental conditions that are not easily manipulated, which could inform modeling of carbon cycles, and (2) in these intensively managed plots, sufficient resources were available to allow for increased aboveground growth despite lower rates of fine root production, which supports the employment of these intensive silvicultural practices.