Root longevity as affected by biotic and abiotic factors
Roots and their associated mycorrhizal fungi have long been recognised as major determinants of nutrient cycling. Their measurement has been limited because soil limits accessibility. The use of in-situ camera techniques in conjunction with minirhizotrons and image analysis software now make the acquisition of accurate root longevity data possible. The current literature was reviewed in relation to root longevity - both measurement techniques and available data. Four main experiments were employed to study the root longevity of a number of tree species, grass and clover subject to differing environmental conditions and grass and clover and poplar roots with and without colonisation by Arbuscular Mycorrhizal fungi. The data was analysed in a number of different ways including the use of the powerful statistical technique for censored data - survival analysis. This technique proved to be very useful for analysing temporal changes to root longevity. The data indicate that root longevity can be extremely short but is dependent upon environment and for some species, colonisation by Arbuscular Mycorrhizal fungi. Preliminary calculations were completed to determine the role of root death in nutrient cycling and these predict that large quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon are flowing from the live to the dead root pool on an annual basis.