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Root functional parameters along a land-use gradient: evidence of a community-level economics spectrum

Abstract : There is a fundamental trade-off between leaf traits associated with either resource acquisition or resource conservation. This gradient of trait variation, called the economics spectrum, also applies to fine roots, but whether it is consistent for coarse roots or at the plant community level remains untested. We measured a set of morphological and chemical root traits at a community level (functional parameters; FP) in 20 plant communities located along land-use intensity gradients and across three climatic zones (tropical, mediterranean and montane). We hypothesized (i) the existence of a root economics spectrum in plant communities consistent within root types (fine, < 2 mm; coarse, 2–5 mm), (ii) that variations in root FP occur with soil depths (top 20 cm of soil and 100–150 cm deep) and (iii) along land-use gradients. Root FP covaried, in line with the resource acquisition–conservation trade-off, from communities with root FP associated with resource acquisition (e.g. high specific root length, SRL; thin diameters and low root dry matter contents, RDMC) to root FP associated with resource conservation (e.g. low SRL, thick diameters and high RDMC). This pattern was consistent for both fine and coarse roots indicating a strong consistency of a trade-off between resource acquisition and conservation for plant roots. Roots had different suites of traits at different depths, suggesting a disparity in root function and exploitation capacities. Shallow, fine roots were thinner, richer in nitrogen and with lower lignin concentrations associated with greater exploitation capacities compared to deep, fine roots. Shallow, coarse roots were richer in nitrogen, carbon and soluble concentrations than deep, coarse roots. Fine root parameters of highly disturbed, herbaceous-dominated plant communities in poorer soils were associated with foraging strategies, that is greater SRL and lower RDMC and lignin concentration than those from less disturbed communities. Coarse roots, however, were less sensitive to the land-use gradient. Synthesis. This study demonstrates the existence of a general trade-off in root construction at a community level, which operates within all root types, suggesting that all plant tissues are controlled by the trade-off between resource acquisition and conservation.
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Contributor : Yannick Brohard Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, July 31, 2019 - 3:40:31 PM
Last modification on : Friday, August 5, 2022 - 2:38:11 PM

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Ivan Prieto, Catherine Roumet, Rémi Cardinael, Christian Dupraz, Christophe Jourdan, et al.. Root functional parameters along a land-use gradient: evidence of a community-level economics spectrum. Journal of Ecology, Wiley, 2015, 103 (2), pp.361-373. ⟨10.1111/1365-2745.12351⟩. ⟨hal-02202100⟩



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