Our knowledge of the root system architecture of trees is still incomplete, especially concerning how biomass partitioning is regulated to achieve an optimal, but often unequal, distribution of resources. In addition, our comprehension of root system architecture development as a result of the adaptation process is limited because most studies lack a temporal approach. To add to our understanding, we excavated 32-year-old Pinus ponderosa trees from a steep, forested site in northern Idaho USA. The root systems were discretized by a low magnetic field digitizer and along with AMAPmod software we examined their root traits (i.e. order category, topology, growth direction length, and volume) in four quadrants: downslope, upslope, windward, and leeward. On one tree, we analyzed tree rings to compare the ages of lateral roots relative to their parental root, and to assess the occurrence of compression wood. We found that, from their onset, first-order lateral roots have similar patterns of ring eccentricity suggesting an innate ability to respond to different mechanical forces; more root system was allocated downslope and to the windward quadrant. In addition, we noted that shallow roots, which all presented compression wood, appear to be the most important component of anchorage. Finally, we observed that lateral roots can change growth direction in response to mechanical forces, as well as produce new lateral roots at any development stage and wherever along their axis. These findings suggest that trees adjust their root spatial deployment in response to environmental conditions, these roots form compression wood to dissipate mechanical forces, and new lateral roots can arise anywhere and at any time on the existing system in apparent response to mechanical forces.
Montagnoli, Antonio; Terzaghi, Mattia; Chiatante, Donato; Scippa, Gabriella S.; Lasserre, Bruno; Dumroese, R. Kasten. 2019. Ongoing modifications to root system architecture of Pinus ponderosa growing on a sloped site revealed by tree-ring analysis. Dendrochronologia. 58: 125650.