Tree root system development alters forest soil properties, and differences in root diameter frequency and root length per soil volume reflect differences in root system function. In this study, the relationship between vertical distribution of very fine root and soil water content was investigated in intact tree and cut tree areas. The vertical distribution of root density with different diameter classes (very fine <0.5 mm and fine 0.5–2.0 mm) and soil water content were examined along a slope with two coniferous tree species, Cryptomeria japonica (L.f.) D. Don and Chamaecyparis obtusa (Siebold et Zucc.) Endl. The root biomass and length density of very fine roots at soil depth of 0–5 cm were higher in the Ch. obtusa intact tree plot than in the Cr. japonica intact plot. Tree cutting caused a reduction in the biomass and length of very fine roots at 0–5 cm soil depth, and an increment in soil water content at 5–30 cm soil depth of the Ch. obtusa cut tree plot one year after cutting. However, very fine root density of the Cr. japonica intact tree plot was quite low and the soil water content in post-harvest areas did not change. The increase in soil water content at 5–30 cm soil depth of the Ch. obtusa cut tree plot could be caused by the decrease in very fine roots at 0–5 cm soil depth. These results suggest that the distribution of soil water content was changed after tree cutting of Ch. obtusa by the channels generated by the decay of very fine roots. It was also shown that differences in root system characteristics among different tree species affect soil water properties after cutting.
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