Topography can strongly influence root and associated mycorrhizal fungal function in the Critical Zone. In the Shale Hills-Susquehanna Critical Zone Observatory (SSHCZO), soil depths range from more than 80 cm deep in the valley floor to about 25 cm on the ridge top. Tree height varies from about 28 m tall at the valley floor to about 17 m tall at the ridge top. Yet total absorptive root length to depth of refusal is quite similar across the hillslope. We find root length density to vary as much at locations only 1-2 m apart as at scales of hundreds of meters across the catchment. Tree community composition also varies along the hillslope, including tree species that vary widely in thickness of their absorptive roots and type of mycorrhiza (arbuscular mycorrhizal and ectomycorrhizal). Studies of trees in a common garden of 16 tree species and in forests near SSCZO indicate that both root morphology and mycorrhizal type can strongly influence root foraging. Species that form thick absorptive roots appear more dependent on mycorrhizal fungi and thin-root species forage more by root proliferation. Ectomycorrhizal trees show more variation in foraging precision (proliferation in a nutrient-rich patch relative to that in an unenriched patch) of their mycorrhizal hyphae whereas AM trees show more variation in foraging precision by root proliferation, indicating alternative strategies among trees of different mycorrhizal types. Collectively, the results provide insight into how topography can influence foraging belowground.
Eissenstat, David M, Alexandra S. Orr, Thomas S Adams, Weile Chen and Katie Gaines (2015): Influence of Topography on Root Processes in the Shale Hills Susquehanna Critical Zone Observatory (Invited). H23J-02 Ecohydrology in the Critical Zone II, presented at 2015 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 14-18 Dec..
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.