Harvesting timber – and carbon credits

When people draw trees, they usually show a trunk, branches and leaves – leaving the roots out of the picture.

Similarly, when estimating forest carbon storage, the roots are often not counted or incorporated using a fudge factor.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute studied tropical tree roots in, finding that in young trees (six to eight years) they accounted for almost 30 percent of the total biomass with root systems every bit as diverse as the crowns of trees.

The director of the Smithsonian's Panama Canal Watershed (Agua Salud) experiment, Jefferson Hall, told Science Daily that better understanding root systems and mass would refine the ability to understand how forests respond to global change.

"Perhaps not surprisingly, we found root systems to be every bit as diverse as the crowns of trees, a morphological diversity that is important to understand as it suggests a more thorough exploitation of belowground resources.

"Interestingly, we also found that two of the forty trees we excavated connected with neighbouring species via grafts of coarse roots. Are these trees sharing resources?..Clearly there is more work to be done."

Image credit: M Ogden, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Source: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute