Uptake of water by lateral roots of small trees in an Amazonian tropical forest

Leonel Da S.L. Sternberg, Marcelo Z. Moreira, Daniel C. Nepstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


A pulse chase technique was used to determine depth and breath of plant water uptake in an Amazonian evergreen forest. Two 2 × 2 m2 plots were irrigated with deuterated water. The deuterium pulse, measured as δD values of soil and plant sap water, was followed in the soil water profile and in stem water of small trees inside and up to 12 m away from the irrigated plots. The deuterium pulse percolation rate was measured to be approximately 0.25 m/month and similar to a previous study in central Amazon. There was little horizontal movement of label through the soil profile; allowing us to conclude that any evidence of label in plants away from the irrigation plots implies the presence of their roots inside the irrigation plots. The bulk of label uptake occurred in plants inside the irrigation plots. However, there were a few individuals as far as 10 m away picking up the label from the irrigation plots. This labeling pattern leads to the conclusion that small trees may have a core of water absorbing roots close to their main trunk, with some roots meandering far from their main trunk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-158
Number of pages8
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 25 2002


  • Deforestation
  • Edge effects
  • Root structure
  • Stable isotopes
  • Tropical forests
  • Water uptake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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