The vertical distributions of fine roots of western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.) western redcedar (Thuja plicata Donn ex D. Don), and salal (Gaultheria shallon Pursh) were characterized in old-growth cedar–hemlock forests on northern Vancouver Island. Total biomasses of cedar, hemlock, and salal roots in the forest floor and upper mineral soil were 817, 620, and 187 g·m–2, respectively. Hemlock and salal fine roots were concentrated in the upper forest floor, while cedar fine roots were evenly distributed through the profile. Salal and hemlock fine root densities (g·m–3) in the forest floor and mineral soil were positively correlated, as were salal and cedar root biomass distributions (g·m–2). Only salal and hemlock root densities were significantly correlated with N concentrations. Hemlock root densities were negatively correlated with total N, and salal root densities were negatively correlated with total N and soluble organic N. Based on fine root densities, hemlock and salal probably compete for resources in the upper forest floor, whereas cedar accesses resources in the lower organic and mineral soil horizons. The differences in the vertical distributions of cedar, hemlock, and salal fine roots may partly explain the co-occurrence and different productivities of the three species in cedar-hemlock forests.
Vertical fine root distributions of western redcedar, western hemlock, and salal in old-growth cedar–hemlock forests on northern Vancouver Island