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Ecological drivers of root grafting in balsam fir natural stands

Abstract : Natural root grafts (anastomoses) result from the fusion of the vascular systems of two roots and allow trees to share water, nutrients and photosynthesis products, affecting tree growth and physiology. The aim of this study was to investigate the frequency of root grafting in balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill) of the boreal forest of Quebec (Canada), and to identify ecological drivers such as tree proximity or size of stems and roots. One 50 m2 area was hydraulically excavated in each of three natural balsam fir stands of various ages, tree diameters and densities. For each area, we measured the number of roots and grafts per tree, and the diameter and age of all stems, roots and grafts using dendrochronology techniques. Percentages of grafted trees and number of grafts per tree were similar between stands, corresponding to 36% (± 2.86 SE) and 1.30 (± 0.03 SE), respectively. Root grafting occurred at a wide range of tree ages from 12 to 106 years old. Mean distance between grafted trees was 47.91 cm (± 5.10 SE) and we did not observe any graft beyond a 2 m distance between trees. The number of grafts per tree increased with number of roots per tree and decreased with distance between trees. Root grafting also occurred at a wide range of root ages, from 5 to 64 years old. However, roots were relatively small at graft initiation, with an average root diameter of 3.94 cm (± 0.33 SE). These results demonstrate that balsam fir stands are highly connected through root grafting, occurring early in stand development and continuing throughout the life of the stands. The number of roots per tree and distance between trees were the best predictors for root grafting.
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https://hal-amu.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03024895
Contributor : Stéphane Greff <>
Submitted on : Monday, December 14, 2020 - 9:41:54 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, December 16, 2020 - 4:01:43 AM

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Elodie Quer, Virginie Baldy, A. Desrochers. Ecological drivers of root grafting in balsam fir natural stands. Forest Ecology and Management, In press, 475, pp.118388. ⟨10.1016/j.foreco.2020.118388⟩. ⟨hal-03024895⟩

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