Root density distribution and biomass allocation of co-occurring woody plants on contrasting soils in a subtropical savanna parkland Academic Article uri icon


  • 2019, Springer Nature Switzerland AG. Background and aims: Root niche partitioning among trees/shrubs and grasses facilitates their coexistence in savannas, but little is known regarding root distribution patterns of co-occurring woody plants, and how they might differ on contrasting soils. Methods: We quantified root distributions of co-occurring shrubs to 2m on argillic and non-argillic soils. Results: Root biomass in the two shrub communities was 3- to 5- fold greater than that in the grassland community. Prosopis glandulosa, the dominant overstory species was deep-rooted, while the dominant understory shrub, Zanthoxylum fagara, was shallow-rooted (47% vs. 25% of root density at depths >0.4m). Shrubs on argillic soils had less aboveground and greater belowground mass than those on non-argillic soils. Root biomass and density on argillic soils was elevated at shallow (< 0.4m) depths, whereas root density of the same species on non-argillic soils were skewed to depths >0.4m. Root density decreased exponentially with increasing distance from woody patch perimeters. Conclusions: Belowground biomass (carbon) pools increased markedly with grassland-to-shrubland state change. The presence/absence of a restrictive barrier had substantial effects on root distributions and above- vs. belowground biomass allocation. Differences in root distribution patterns of co-occurring woody species would facilitate their co-existence.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 2

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhou, Y., Watts, S. E., Boutton, T. W., & Archer, S. R.

citation count

  • 20

complete list of authors

  • Zhou, Yong||Watts, Stephen E||Boutton, Thomas W||Archer, Steven R

publication date

  • May 2019