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Water availability drives fine root dynamics in a Eucalyptus woodland under elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration


Piñeiro, Juan et al. (2020), Water availability drives fine root dynamics in a Eucalyptus woodland under elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration, Dryad, Dataset,


Fine roots are a key component of carbon and nutrient dynamics in forest ecosystems. Rising atmospheric [CO2] (eCO2) is likely to alter the production and activity of fine roots, with important consequences for forest carbon storage. Yet empirical evidence of the role of eCO2 in driving root dynamics in low-nutrient forested ecosystems is limited, particularly for grassy woodlands, an ecosystem type of global importance.

We sampled fine roots across seasons over a two-year period to examine the effects of eCO2 on their biomass, production, turnover and functional traits in a native mature grassy Eucalyptus woodland in eastern Australia (EucFACE).

Fine root biomass, production and turnover varied greatly through time, increasing as soil water content declined. Despite a lack of persistent effects of eCO2 on fine root biomass, production or turnover across the two-year sampling period, we found enhanced production pulses under eCO2 between 10-30 cm soil depth. These eCO2-driven production pulses were associated with large changes in abiotic conditions. In addition, eCO2 led to greater carbon and phosphorus concentrations in fine roots and increased root diameter, but no detectable effects on other morphological traits.

Synthesis. We found minor quantitative effects of eCO2 on fine root biomass dynamics that were largely driven by temporal variations in soil water availability. Our results suggest that in this mature grassy woodland, and perhaps also in other similar forested ecosystem types characterized by low phosphorus content in the soil, eCO2 effects are small and transient. This suggests limited belowground fine root productivity responses to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations and, thus, perhaps also a limited ability of these systems to mitigate climate change through belowground mechanisms.


The methods used to collect the data are detailed in the article. Metadata and units for each variable are given in the dataset itself. 

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