Researchers trace large-scale understory biomass across China's forests

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Chinese researchers have traced understory biomass and its allocation across China's forests, according to a research article recently published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Understory vegetation, generally consisting of the understory shrub layer, herbaceous layer and ground cover moss layer, is a significant component of any forest ecosystem and plays a vital role in biodiversity maintenance and the ecosystem's carbon cycle.

Biomass is commonly used to quantify the productivity of forest ecosystems. Biomass allocation also reflects the adaptability of plants to different environments. It is generally expressed by the ratio of underground and aboveground biomass of plants or the root-shoot ratio.

The researchers from the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, cooperated with Chinese and American institutions and compiled a large database of understory biomass at the community level across China's forests to explore the large-scale patterns of understory biomass and root-shoot ratio.

They found that the understory biomass and root-shoot ratio varied largely with forest types, and decreased with increasing longitude, but increased with elevation.

Mean annual precipitation was the most important driver in determining root-shoot ratio, the research article reported.

The study sheds new light on the mechanisms underlying the variations in understory biomass and its allocation over a broad geographic scale.

The researchers believed that their findings will improve predictions of understory community dynamics in response to climate change and aid in further optimizing ecosystem process models.

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