Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Size-specific biomass allocation and water content of above- and below-ground components of three Eucalyptus species in a northern Australian savanna

Patricia A. Werner and Peter G. Murphy

Australian Journal of Botany 49(2) 155 - 167
Published: 2001

Abstract

The biomass of component parts of individuals of three dominant canopy tree species in the northern savannas of Australia was determined from field populations in World Heritage Kakadu National Park. Forty individual trees of Eucalyptus tetrodonta F. Muell., E. miniata Cunn. ex Schauer and E. papuana F.Muell., representing a range in size from 4 to 50 cm diameter at breast height (DBH), were felled for dry biomass of leaves, branches, woody stems and bark. Forty-seven other trees of E. tetrodonta and E. miniata were excavated for belowground biomass, by using trenching methods. The average proportion of aboveground biomass in foliage was 3–5%, to branches 20–32%, and trunk wood 77–59%, with little change over the size of a tree. Water content of foliage decreased with size of tree in all species, indicating an increasing xeromorphy as the trees age. Gross morphology of roots was bimorphic, with 70% of biomass at <20-cm soil depth, and large roots running horizontally on top of the shallow (0.3–1.4 m) ferricrete layer. There was no evidence of roots having access to water below this layer. Patterns of heights, percentage biomass allocation, percentage water content, and bark thickness of the three species were consistent with the rank order of their distributions across a topographic gradient, reflecting relative capacities to withstand drought, belowground competition and fire. By using tree diameter as the independent variable (x in cm DBH), allometric relationships were calculated to provide a method for calculating growth and productivity by using non-destructive repeat measures of sizes of trees. The total aboveground biomass (y in kg) of individual trees is y = 0.2068x2.3191 for E. tetrodonta, y = 0.1527x2.390 for E. miniata and y = 0.0356x2.8567 for E. papuana. Total belowground biomass per tree for E. tetrodonta is y = 31.150e0.0601x and for E. miniata, y = 28.753e0.0644x. As a tree grows, the aboveground biomass increases as a power function and belowground biomass as an exponential function of DBH, producing a decreasing proportion of total biomass below ground, e.g. the root/shoot ratio of E. tetrodonta is 0.50 for trees <10 cm DBH, 0.40 for trees 20 cm DBH, and 0.25 for trees 40–55 cm DBH. The overall proportion of total biomass below ground in Kakadu is well below 50%, contrary to the commonly accepted notion that the majority of biomass in savannas is below ground.

https://doi.org/10.1071/BT99026

© CSIRO 2001


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