Scientific reports, 2021-05-27, Vol.11 (1), p.11246-11246
AbstractPlant rooting strongly affects most hydrological, biogeochemical and ecological processes in terrestrial ecosystems, as it presents the main pathway for carbon, water and nutrient transfer from soil to the atmosphere and is a key factor in stabilizing the soil layer. Few studies have actually investigated the link between phytosociological and structural vegetation composition and diversity in soil rooting parameters. Our study provides a comprehensive evaluation of plant cover and diversity effects on rooting parameters dependent on different land-use types along a north–south transect in the Eastern Alps. We conducted field studies of root biomass, rooting density and rooting depth for the six main land-use types: intensively and lightly used hay meadows, pastures, arable land, agriculturally unused grasslands and forests. The variation in rooting parameters was explained by different aspects of species and functional richness, species and functional composition, functional traits, abundance of key species and site variables depending on the land-use types. Our results showed that different characteristics of biodiversity explained the variance in root parameters (mass, density and depth) to a high degree (determination coefficient R2 values varied between 0.621 and 0.891). All rooting parameters increased with increasing plant species richness, as well as with a higher diversity of plant functional traits. The inclusion of site parameters significantly increased the explained variance, while we could not find evidence for key species and their abundance to provide additional explanatory power. Allowing the effects to vary depending on land-use types turned out to be a necessity supporting the importance of considering land-use types for rooting. The findings indicate that vegetation composition has a clear relationship with rooting parameters across different habitats in the European Alps. As the effect of plant composition differs with respect to the land-use type, rooting can be monitored by land management to achieve the desired benefits. For example, intensified rooting through extensive management decreases erosion risk and increases carbon uptake.
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