OOS 1-2
Evaluating the patterns of below ground woody biomass along the Kalahari rainfall gradient

Monday, August 5, 2013: 1:50 PM
101A, Minneapolis Convention Center
Abinash Bhattachan, Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Paolo D'Odorico, Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Mokganedi Tatlhego, Okavango Research Institute, University of Botswana, Maun, Botswana
Kebonye Dintwe, Department of Geography, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Frances C. O'Donnell, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Kelly K. Caylor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, NJ
Greg Okin, Department of Geography, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Danielle Perrot, Geography, University of Colorado, Colorado, CO
Susan Ringrose, Gobabeb Research and Training Centre, Gobabeb, Namibia

The contribution of savannas to global carbon storage is poorly understood, in part due to lack of knowledge of the amount of belowground biomass. In these ecosystems, the coexistence of woody and herbaceous life forms is often explained on the basis of belowground interactions among roots. However, the distribution of root biomass in savannas has seldom been investigated, and the dependence of root biomass on rainfall remains unclear, particularly for woody plants. Here we investigate patterns of belowground woody biomass along a rainfall gradient (from 600 mm/yr in the north to 180 mm/yr in the south) in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, on homogeneous sandy soils. We test the hypotheses that (1) the root depth increases with mean annual precipitation (root optimality and plant hydrotropism hypothesis), and (2) the root-to-shoot ratio increases with decreasing mean annual rainfall (functional equilibrium hypothesis). Both hypotheses have been previously assessed for herbaceous vegetation using global root data sets.


Our data do not support these hypotheses for the case of woody plants in the Kalahari. We find that in the Kalahari, the root profiles of woody plants do not become deeper with increasing mean annual precipitation, whereas the root-to-shoot ratios decrease along a gradient of increasing aridity.