skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Introduction to a Virtual Issue on root traits

Abstract

Plant traits – ‘morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochem-ical and phenological characteristics of plants and their organs’(Kattge et al., 2011) – are increasingly being harnessed byempiricists and modelers as a framework to understand patternsin the structure and function of specie s across the globe. Trait-basedecology, which emphasizes functional traits over the taxonomicalrelationships among organisms (Laliberte, 2017), promises toimprove generality, synthesis, and predictive ability across ecolog-ical scales (Shipley et al., 2016). Indeed, plant trait studies areincreasingly prominent in the literature: a simple Web of Sciencesearch on the term indicates a surge in publications from 2576during the three-year period from 1999 to 2001 to 13 234 in thethree-year period between 2014 and 2016. However, the mostcommon plant traits described in the literature relate to above -ground organs and their function, including leaf morphology,photosynthetic parameters, and above ground growth rate. Roottraits, particularly those of fine roots associated with criticalbelowground plant functions, are much less studied – they are, afterall, harder to measure and less likely to have a role in ecosystemmodels as they are encoded today. Although the TRY database ofplant traits (Kattge et al., 2011) has been a highly valuable resourcefor plant and ecosystem ecologists, < 1% of the data entries describefine-root functional traits.more » This glaring gap in our knowledge of thebelowground half of ecosystem function has led to a chorus of pleasin recent years for a stronger emphasis on the measurement andunderstanding of root traits (e.g . Bardgett et al., 2014).« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1]
  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1361335
Grant/Contract Number:
AC05-00OR22725
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
New Phytologist
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 215; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 0028-646X
Publisher:
Wiley
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES

Citation Formats

Norby, Richard J., and Iversen, Colleen M.. Introduction to a Virtual Issue on root traits. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1111/nph.14522.
Norby, Richard J., & Iversen, Colleen M.. Introduction to a Virtual Issue on root traits. United States. doi:10.1111/nph.14522.
Norby, Richard J., and Iversen, Colleen M.. 2017. "Introduction to a Virtual Issue on root traits". United States. doi:10.1111/nph.14522.
@article{osti_1361335,
title = {Introduction to a Virtual Issue on root traits},
author = {Norby, Richard J. and Iversen, Colleen M.},
abstractNote = {Plant traits – ‘morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochem-ical and phenological characteristics of plants and their organs’(Kattge et al., 2011) – are increasingly being harnessed byempiricists and modelers as a framework to understand patternsin the structure and function of specie s across the globe. Trait-basedecology, which emphasizes functional traits over the taxonomicalrelationships among organisms (Laliberte, 2017), promises toimprove generality, synthesis, and predictive ability across ecolog-ical scales (Shipley et al., 2016). Indeed, plant trait studies areincreasingly prominent in the literature: a simple Web of Sciencesearch on the term indicates a surge in publications from 2576during the three-year period from 1999 to 2001 to 13 234 in thethree-year period between 2014 and 2016. However, the mostcommon plant traits described in the literature relate to above -ground organs and their function, including leaf morphology,photosynthetic parameters, and above ground growth rate. Roottraits, particularly those of fine roots associated with criticalbelowground plant functions, are much less studied – they are, afterall, harder to measure and less likely to have a role in ecosystemmodels as they are encoded today. Although the TRY database ofplant traits (Kattge et al., 2011) has been a highly valuable resourcefor plant and ecosystem ecologists, < 1% of the data entries describefine-root functional traits. This glaring gap in our knowledge of thebelowground half of ecosystem function has led to a chorus of pleasin recent years for a stronger emphasis on the measurement andunderstanding of root traits (e.g . Bardgett et al., 2014).},
doi = {10.1111/nph.14522},
journal = {New Phytologist},
number = 1,
volume = 215,
place = {United States},
year = 2017,
month = 5
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
This content will become publicly available on May 31, 2018
Publisher's Version of Record

Save / Share:
  • It is generally assumed that leaf and root litter decomposition have similar drivers and that nutrient release from these substrates is synchronized. Few studies have examined these assumptions, and none has examined how plant genetics (i.e., plant susceptibility to herbivory) could affect these relationships. Here we examine the effects of herbivore susceptibility and resistance on needle and fine root litter decomposition of pi on pine, Pinus edulis. The study population consists of individual trees that are either susceptible or resistant to herbivory by the pi on needle scale, Matsucoccus acalyptus, or the stem-boring moth, Dioryctria albovittella. Genetic analyses and experimentalmore » removals and additions of these insects have identified trees that are naturally resistant and susceptible to these insects. These herbivores increase the chemical quality of litter inputs and alter soil microclimate, both of which are important decomposition drivers. Our research leads to four major conclusions: Herbivore susceptibility and resistance effects on 1) needle litter mass loss and phosphorus (P) retention in moth susceptible and resistant litter are governed by microclimate, 2) root litter nitrogen (N) and P retention, and needle litter N retention are governed by litter chemical quality, 3) net nutrient release from litter can reverse over time, 4) root and needle litter mass loss and nutrient release are determined by location (above- vs. belowground), suggesting that the regulators of needle and root decomposition differ at the local scale. Understanding of decomposition and nutrient retention in ecosystems requires consideration of herbivore effects on above- and belowground processes and how these effects may be governed by plant genotype. Because an underlying genetic component to herbivory is common to most ecosystems of the world and herbivory may increase in climatic change scenarios, it is important to evaluate the role of plant genetics in affecting carbon and nutrient fluxes.« less
  • In this study, there is little quantitative information about the relationship between root traits and the extent of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) colonization. We expected that ancestral species with thick roots will maximize AMF habitat by maintaining similar root traits across root orders (i.e., high root trait integration), whereas more derived species are expected to display a sharp transition from acquisition to structural roots. Moreover, we hypothesized that interspecific morphological differences rather than soil conditions will be the main driver of AMF colonization We analyzed 14 root morphological and chemical traits and AMF colonization rates for the first three rootmore » orders of 34 temperate tree species grown in two common gardens. We also collected associated soil to measure the effect of soil conditions on AMF colonization Results Thick-root magnoliids showed less variation in root traits along root orders than more-derived angiosperm groups. Variation in stele:root diameter ratio was the best indicator of AMF colonization within and across root orders. Root functional traits rather than soil conditions largely explained the variation in AMF colonization among species. In conclusion, not only the traits of first order but the entire structuring of the root system varied among plant lineages, suggesting alternative evolutionary strategies of resource acquisition. Understanding evolutionary pathways in below ground organs could open new avenues to understand tree species influence on soil carbon and nutrient cycling.« less
  • Ongoing climate warming will likely perturb vertical distributions of nitrogen availability in tundra soils through enhancing nitrogen mineralization and releasing previously inaccessible nitrogen from frozen permafrost soil. But, arctic tundra responses to such changes are uncertain, because of a lack of vertically explicit nitrogen tracer experiments and untested hypotheses of root nitrogen uptake under the stress of microbial competition implemented in land models. We conducted a vertically explicit 15N tracer experiment for three dominant tundra species to quantify plant N uptake profiles. Then we applied a nutrient competition model (N-COM), which is being integrated into the ACME Land Model, tomore » explain the observations. Observations using an 15N tracer showed that plant N uptake profiles were not consistently related to root biomass density profiles, which challenges the prevailing hypothesis that root density always exerts first-order control on N uptake. By considering essential root traits (e.g., biomass distribution and nutrient uptake kinetics) with an appropriate plant-microbe nutrient competition framework, our model reasonably reproduced the observed patterns of plant N uptake. Additionally, we show that previously applied nutrient competition hypotheses in Earth System Land Models fail to explain the diverse plant N uptake profiles we observed. These results cast doubt on current climate-scale model predictions of arctic plant responses to elevated nitrogen supply under a changing climate and highlight the importance of considering essential root traits in large-scale land models. Finally, we provided suggestions and a short synthesis of data availability for future trait-based land model development.« less