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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 69 No. 3, p. 729-737
    Received: July 12, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): lupe_gatto@hotmail.com
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Effects of Sediment Deposition on Fine Root Dynamics in Riparian Forests

  1. Guadalupe G. Cavalcanti * and
  2. B. Graeme Lockaby
  1. School of Forestry and Wildlife Science, Auburn Univ., Auburn, AL 36849-5418


One of the most important functions of riparian zones is their ability to improve water quality by trapping sediment leaving agricultural fields and other disturbed areas. However, few data exist quantifying the impacts of sediment deposition from anthropogenic disturbance on belowground processes within these ecosystems. This study was conducted at Ft. Benning, GA, where disturbance caused by military training has generated a range of sedimentation levels in riparian forests near ephemeral streams. Nine ephemeral streams, exhibiting different levels of sediment deposition, were selected for study. Two paired treatment plots (upper and lower) were established along each catchment to represent potentially disturbed and control conditions, respectively. On highly and moderately disturbed catchments, upper plots had received varying rates of sediment from erosion along unpaved roads. Biomass, turnover, productivity, and nutrient contents of fine roots were compared within and across catchments. Temporal fluctuations in biomass of live and dead fine roots were observed for both treatments in the three disturbance categories, except for upper plots of highly disturbed catchments, where biomass remained fairly low and constant throughout the study. Fine root productivity declined sharply with sediment rates as low as 0.3 cm yr−1 Nutrient contents of live and dead fine roots followed a similar trend to that of root biomass. These data suggest that fine root dynamics may be affected by sediment deposition rates commonly occurring in some wetland forests, and the water filtration function performed by these ecosystems may be at risk.

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