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About this Research Topic

Manuscript Submission Deadline 04 March 2023

Forests cover an estimated 4.0-5.0 billion hectares globally, and account for about 70 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. Much attention has focused on the aboveground components of forest ecosystems, with little emphasis on the belowground components and processes. Hence, our appreciation of forest functioning belowground lags far behind that of the aboveground. Yet, understanding the belowground components and processes of forests is critical because of the key roles of plant roots and their associated symbionts and soil microbes in carbon and nutrient cycling, and in mediating the supply of ecosystem services such as water infiltration. For instance, globally, roots account for an estimated 20-40 percent of total tree carbon in forests. In addition, between 22 and 70 percent of the total annual net primary productivity of forests is allocated to roots and their associated symbionts. Furthermore, the high animal biodiversity belowground enhances the stability of forest ecosystems.

Recent conceptual and technological advances in belowground ecology of forest ecosystems are shedding new light on plant root and microbial dynamics and processes such as root growth and turnover, rhizodeposition (exudation), soil microbial mineralization and respiration, mycorrhizal processes, and soil respiration and its components. However, there are still gaps in our knowledge on how to efficiently quantify the roles that plant roots and their associated symbionts and microbes play in driving forest ecosystem functioning (including decomposition, biomass, and carbon storage) and the factors that determine their spatial and temporal variations, as well as their responses to environmental changes (including climate change and land use change), disturbances, and forest management practices. The present Research Topic will bring together studies on forest ecosystems from a broad range of biomes including temperate, boreal, subtropics and the tropics. Such studies should provide new insights into novel techniques assessing belowground components and processes, and explore their spatial and temporal variations and responses to global changes, disturbances, and management practices including harvesting at the plant species, community, and ecosystem levels.

Altogether, this Research Topic will refine our understanding of the role of plant roots and other belowground components to forest functioning. Additionally, practitioners and policy makers will be equipped with the tools to better manage forests in this era of global environmental changes. The key themes to address include, but not limited to, the following:
• Novel techniques to assess belowground components including roots and associated rhizosphere organisms.
• Scales of plasticity in belowground dynamics to global change factors and forest management practices.
• Drivers of belowground processes including nutrient uptake, root respiration, microbial mineralization, root growth, and turnover in space and time.
• Linkages between belowground processes and land use changes.
• Impacts of various disturbances on belowground components in relation to the functioning of forest ecosystems.

We welcome studies from observational and manipulative experiments, as well as process model simulations in the form of reviews/mini-reviews, synthesis and meta-analysis, perspective articles, and original research articles.

Keywords: Forest Ecosystems, Roots, Environmental Change, belowground processes, rhizodeposition


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Forests cover an estimated 4.0-5.0 billion hectares globally, and account for about 70 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. Much attention has focused on the aboveground components of forest ecosystems, with little emphasis on the belowground components and processes. Hence, our appreciation of forest functioning belowground lags far behind that of the aboveground. Yet, understanding the belowground components and processes of forests is critical because of the key roles of plant roots and their associated symbionts and soil microbes in carbon and nutrient cycling, and in mediating the supply of ecosystem services such as water infiltration. For instance, globally, roots account for an estimated 20-40 percent of total tree carbon in forests. In addition, between 22 and 70 percent of the total annual net primary productivity of forests is allocated to roots and their associated symbionts. Furthermore, the high animal biodiversity belowground enhances the stability of forest ecosystems.

Recent conceptual and technological advances in belowground ecology of forest ecosystems are shedding new light on plant root and microbial dynamics and processes such as root growth and turnover, rhizodeposition (exudation), soil microbial mineralization and respiration, mycorrhizal processes, and soil respiration and its components. However, there are still gaps in our knowledge on how to efficiently quantify the roles that plant roots and their associated symbionts and microbes play in driving forest ecosystem functioning (including decomposition, biomass, and carbon storage) and the factors that determine their spatial and temporal variations, as well as their responses to environmental changes (including climate change and land use change), disturbances, and forest management practices. The present Research Topic will bring together studies on forest ecosystems from a broad range of biomes including temperate, boreal, subtropics and the tropics. Such studies should provide new insights into novel techniques assessing belowground components and processes, and explore their spatial and temporal variations and responses to global changes, disturbances, and management practices including harvesting at the plant species, community, and ecosystem levels.

Altogether, this Research Topic will refine our understanding of the role of plant roots and other belowground components to forest functioning. Additionally, practitioners and policy makers will be equipped with the tools to better manage forests in this era of global environmental changes. The key themes to address include, but not limited to, the following:
• Novel techniques to assess belowground components including roots and associated rhizosphere organisms.
• Scales of plasticity in belowground dynamics to global change factors and forest management practices.
• Drivers of belowground processes including nutrient uptake, root respiration, microbial mineralization, root growth, and turnover in space and time.
• Linkages between belowground processes and land use changes.
• Impacts of various disturbances on belowground components in relation to the functioning of forest ecosystems.

We welcome studies from observational and manipulative experiments, as well as process model simulations in the form of reviews/mini-reviews, synthesis and meta-analysis, perspective articles, and original research articles.

Keywords: Forest Ecosystems, Roots, Environmental Change, belowground processes, rhizodeposition


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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