Aims There have been a large number of studies on the independent separate responses of fine roots to warming and nitrogen deposition, but with contradictory reporting. Fine root production plays a critical role in ecosystem carbon, nutrient and water cycling, yet how it responds to the interactive warming and nitrogen addition is not well understood. In the present study, we aimed to examine the interactive effects of soil warming and nitrogen addition on fine root growth of 1-year-old Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) seedlings in subtropical China.
Methods A mesocosm experiment, with a factorial design of soil warming (ambient, +5 °C) and nitrogen addition (ambient, ambient + 40 kg·hm-2·a-1, ambient + 80 kg·hm-2·a-1), was carried out in the Chenda State-owned Forest Farm in Sanming City, Fujian Province, China. Fine root production (indexed by the number of fine roots emerged per tube of one year) was measured biweekly using minirhizotrons from March of 2014 to February of 2015.
Important findings (1) The two-way ANOVA showed that soil warming had a significant effect on fine root production, while nitrogen addition and soil warming × nitrogen addition had no effect. (2) The three-way ANOVA (soil warming, nitrogen addition and diameter class) showed that soil warming, diameter class and soil warming × diameter class had significant effects on fine root production, especially for the number of fine roots in 0-1 mm diameter class that had been significantly increased by soil warming. Compared with the 1-2 mm roots, the 0-1 mm roots seemed more flexible. (3) Repeated measures of ANOVA (soil warming, nitrogen addition and season) showed that soil warming, season, soil warming × season, and soil warming × nitrogen addition × season had significant effects on fine root production. In spring, the number of fine roots was significantly increased both by soil warming and soil warming × season, while soil warming, nitrogen addition, soil warming × nitrogen addition significantly decreased fine root production in the summer. (4) Soil warming, soil layer, soil warming × soil layer had significant effects on fine root production. The number of in-growth fine roots was significantly increased by soil warming at the 20-30 cm depth only. It seemed that warming forced fine roots to grow deeper in the soil. In conclusion, soil warming significantly increased fine root production, but they had different responses and were dependent of different diameter classes, seasons and soil layers. Nitrogen addition had no effect on fine root production. Only in spring and summer, soil warming and nitrogen addition had significant interactive effects.