Biomass and decay rates of roots and detritus in sediments of intermittent coastal plain streams
Biomass and breakdown of tree roots within streambed sediments were compared with leaf and wood detritus in three Coastal Plain headwater intermittent streams. Three separate riparian forest treatments were applied: thinned, clearcut, and reference. Biomass of roots (live and dead) and leaf/wood was significantly higher in stream banks than in the channel and declined with depth strata (0-10 > 10-20 > 20- 30 cm). Riparian roots (live and dead combined) contributed on average 24 and 42% of coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM) biomass within the top 30 cm of channel and streambank sediments, respectively. Estimated mean surface area of live riparian roots within sediments was 1084 cm2 m-'. Streambed temperatures showed greater fluctuation at the clearcut site compared to thinned and reference treatments. However, breakdown rates among buried substrate types or riparian treatments did not differ after 1 y. Slow decay rates were associated initially with anaerobic conditions within sandy sediments and later with dry sediment conditions. Riparian roots represent a direct conduit between streamside vegetation and the hyporheic zone. In addition to contributing to organic matter storage, the abundance of riparian roots within streambed sediments suggests that roots play an important role in biogeochemical cycling within intermittent headwater streams of the Coastal Plain.