Tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus) Coarse Root Morphology: Prediction Models for Volume and Biomass of Individual Roots


Descriptions of tree root morphology inform design of belowground biomass and carbon inventories and sampling for research. We studied root morphology of tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus), an important component in mixed evergreen forests of California and Oregon, USA. Tanoak re-sprouts from belowground lignotubers after disturbances, and stores an unknown amount of carbon in coarse roots underground. We sought to ascribe explanatory nomenclature to roots’ morphological features and to identify models describing tanoak root morphology. Twelve tanoak root systems were excavated, dissected, and measured. Roots tapered according to their circumference and location. Larger roots closer to the lignotuber (located at the base of the tree stem) tapered more rapidly per unit of length. Tanoak roots forked frequently. Root cross-sectional area was preserved after forking events (i.e., the sum of cross-sectional areas for smaller roots on one side of the fork correlated with the adjoining large root). Occurrence and quantity of root branches (small roots branching laterally from larger roots) was dependent upon length of the source root segment. Our models of tanoak root morphology are designed to be organized together to estimate biomass of any segment or collection of lateral roots (e.g., roots lost/missed during excavation, or in lieu of destructive sampling), given root diameter at a known distance from the lignotuber. The taper model gives distal- and proximal-end diameters for calculation of volume for segments of root tapering between forks. Frequency of forking and branching can also be predicted. Summing the predicted mass of each lateral root segment, branch, and forked segment would produce an estimate of mass for a contiguous network of lateral roots.

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Namm, B. and Berrill, J. (2016) Tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus) Coarse Root Morphology: Prediction Models for Volume and Biomass of Individual Roots. Open Journal of Forestry, 6, 1-13. doi: 10.4236/ojf.2016.61001.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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