Tropical tree roots represent an underappreciated carbon pool

In a unique study of tropical tree roots at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, roots accounted for almost 30 percent of the total biomass of young trees. The six trees in the experiment, Anacardium excelsum (Espave in Spanish), Cedrela odorata, Dalbergia retusa (Cocobolo), Pachira quinata (Cedro Espino), Tabebuia rosea (Roble) and Terminalia amazonia (Amarillo), all have high timber value and are commonly used for reforestation in Panama. “What percentage of a tree is underground? How does this change with climate, soil fertility and over time? The answers to these questions will refine our ability to understand how forests respond to global change,” said Jefferson Hall, director of the Smithsonian’s Panama Canal Watershed (Agua Salud) experiment. The researchers hope that future estimates of carbon storage and water use by tropical forests will include information on root biomass and architecture.

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