Allometric scaling of biomass with nitrogen and phosphorus above- and below-ground in herbaceous plants varies along water-salinity gradients.
ABSTRACT: Biomass allocation affects the ability of plants to acquire resources and nutrients; a limited allocation of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, affects ecological processes. However, little research has been conducted on how plant allocation patterns change and on the trade-offs involved in allocation strategies when microhabitat gradients exist. We selected a 3.6 km transect in the Ebinur Lake Wetland Natural Reserve of Xinjiang, China, to investigate the relationships between plant traits (biomass and N and P concentrations) of herbaceous plants and environmental factors (soil moisture, salinity and nutrient content), and to determine the allometric scaling of biomass and stoichiometric traits between the above- and below-ground plant parts. The results show that the biomass and stoichiometric traits of plants reflected both the change of micro-environment and the natural characteristics of plants. With a decrease of the soil water availability and salinity, above- and below-ground N and P concentrations decrease gradually; scaling relationships exist between above- and below-ground plant parts, for biomass and N and P concentrations. Biomass allocation is influenced by soil nutrient ratios, and the allocation strategy tended to be conserved for N and variable for P. Second, the scaling relationships also show interspecific differences; all scaling exponents of Suaeda prostrata are larger than for other species and indicate a 'tolerance' strategy, while other species tend to increase the below-ground biomass and N and P concentrations, i.e. a 'capture' strategy.
Project description:Drought periods are projected to become more severe and more frequent in many European regions. While effects of single strong droughts on plant and microbial carbon (C) dynamics have been studied in some detail, impacts of recurrent drought events are still little understood.We tested whether the legacy of extreme experimental drought affects responses of plant and microbial C and nitrogen (N) turnover to further drought and rewetting. In a mountain grassland, we conducted a 13C pulse-chase experiment during a naturally occurring drought and rewetting event in plots previously exposed to experimental droughts and in ambient controls (AC). After labelling, we traced 13C below-ground allocation and incorporation into soil microbes using phospholipid fatty acid biomarkers.Drought history (DH) had no effects on the standing shoot and fine root plant biomass. However, plants with experimental DH displayed decreased shoot N concentrations and increased fine root N concentrations relative to those in AC. During the natural drought, plants with DH assimilated and allocated less 13C below-ground; moreover, fine root respiration was reduced and not fuelled by fresh C compared to plants in AC.Regardless of DH, microbial biomass remained stable during natural drought and rewetting. Although microbial communities initially differed in their composition between soils with and without DH, they responded to the natural drought and rewetting in a similar way: gram-positive bacteria increased, while fungal and gram-negative bacteria remained stable. In soils with DH, a strongly reduced uptake of recent plant-derived 13C in microbial biomarkers was observed during the natural drought, pointing to a smaller fraction of active microbes or to a microbial community that is less dependent on plant C. Synthesis. Drought history can induce changes in above- vs. below-ground plant N concentrations and affect the response of plant C turnover to further droughts and rewetting by decreasing plant C uptake and below-ground allocation. DH does not affect the responses of the microbial community to further droughts and rewetting, but alters microbial functioning, particularly the turnover of recent plant-derived carbon, during and after further drought periods.
Project description:Willows (Salix spp.) grown as short rotation coppice (SRC) are viewed as a sustainable source of biomass with a positive greenhouse gas (GHG) balance due to their potential to fix and accumulate carbon (C) below ground. However, exploiting this potential has been limited by the paucity of data available on below ground biomass allocation and the extent to which it varies between genotypes. Furthermore, it is likely that allocation can be altered considerably by environment. To investigate the role of genotype and environment on allocation, four willow genotypes were grown at two replicated field sites in southeast England and west Wales, UK. Above and below ground biomass was intensively measured over two two-year rotations. Significant genotypic differences in biomass allocation were identified, with below ground allocation differing by up to 10% between genotypes. Importantly, the genotype with the highest below ground biomass also had the highest above ground yield. Furthermore, leaf area was found to be a good predictor of below ground biomass. Growth environment significantly impacted allocation; the willow genotypes grown in west Wales had up to 94% more biomass below ground by the end of the second rotation. A single investigation into fine roots showed the same pattern with double the volume of fine roots present. This greater below ground allocation may be attributed primarily to higher wind speeds, plus differences in humidity and soil characteristics. These results demonstrate that the capacity exists to breed plants with both high yields and high potential for C accumulation.
Project description:Allocation of limited nutrients, such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), among plant organs reflects the influences of evolutionary and ecological processes on functional traits of plants, and thus is related to functional groups and environmental conditions. In this study, we tested this hypothesis by exploring the stoichiometric scaling of N and P concentrations between twig stems and leaves of 335 woody species from 12 forest sites across eastern China. Scaling exponents of twig stem N (or P) to leaf N (or P) varied among functional groups. With increasing latitude, these scaling exponents significantly decreased from >1 at low latitude to <1 at high latitude across the study area. These results suggested that, as plant nutrient concentration increased, plants at low latitudes showed a faster increase in twig stem nutrient concentration, whereas plants at high latitudes presented a faster increase in leaf nutrient concentration. Such shifts in nutrient allocation strategy from low to high latitudes may be controlled by temperature. Overall, our findings provide a new approach to explore plant nutrient allocation strategies by analysing the stoichiometric scaling of nutrients among organs, which could broaden our understanding of the interactions between plants and their environments.
Project description:In resource-poor environments, adjustment in plant biomass allocation implies a complex interplay between environmental signals and plant development rather than a delay in plant development alone. To understand how environmental factors influence biomass allocation or the developing phenotype, it is necessary to distinguish the biomass allocations resulting from environmental gradients or ontogenetic drift. Here, we compared the development trajectories of cotton plants (Gossypium herbaceum L.), which were grown in two contrasting soil textures during a 60-d period. Those results distinguished the biomass allocation pattern resulting from ontogenetic drift and the response to soil texture. The soil texture significantly changed the biomass allocation to leaves and roots, but not to stems. Soil texture also significantly changed the development trajectories of leaf and root traits, but did not change the scaling relationship between basal stem diameter and plant height. Results of nested ANOVAs of consecutive plant-size categories in both soil textures showed that soil gradients explained an average of 63.64-70.49% of the variation of biomass allocation to leaves and roots. Ontogenetic drift explained 77.47% of the variation in biomass allocation to stems. The results suggested that the environmental factors governed the biomass allocation to roots and leaves, and ontogenetic drift governed the biomass allocation to stems. The results demonstrated that biomass allocation to metabolically active organs (e.g., roots and leaves) was mainly governed by environmental factors, and that biomass allocation to metabolically non-active organs (e.g., stems) was mainly governed by ontogenetic drift. We concluded that differentiating the causes of development trajectories of plant traits was important to the understanding of plant response to environmental gradients.
Project description:Aboveground communication between plants is well known to change defense traits in leaves, but its effects on belowground plant traits and soil characteristics have not been elucidated. We hypothesized that aboveground plant-to-plant communication reduces root nodule symbiosis via induction of bactericidal chemical defense substances and changes the soil nutrient environment. Soybean plants were exposed to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from damaged shoots of Solidago canadensis var. scabra, and leaf defense traits (total phenolics, saponins), root saponins, and root nodule symbiosis traits (number and biomass of root nodules) were measured. Soil C/N ratios and mineral concentrations were also measured to estimate the effects of resource uptake by the plants. We found that total phenolics were not affected. However, plants that received VOCs had higher saponin concentrations in both leaves and roots, and fewer root nodules than untreated plants. Although the concentrations of soil minerals did not differ between treatments, soil C/N ratio was significantly higher in the soil of communicated plants. Thus, the aboveground plant-to-plant communication led to reductions in root nodule symbiosis and soil nutrient concentrations. Our results suggest that there are broader effects of induced chemical defenses in aboveground plant organs upon belowground microbial interactions and soil nutrients, and emphasize that plant response based on plant-to-plant communications are a bridge between above- and below-ground ecosystems.
Project description:According to the 'novel weapons hypothesis', invasive success depends on harmful plant biochemicals, including allelopathic antimicrobial roots exudate that directly inhibit plant growth and soil microbial activity. However, the combination of direct and soil-mediated impacts of invasive plants via allelopathy remains poorly understood. Here, we addressed the allelopathic effects of an invasive plant species (Rhus typhina) on a cultivated plant (Tagetes erecta), soil properties and microbial communities. We grew T. erecta on soil samples at increasing concentrations of R. typhina root extracts and measured both plant growth and soil physiological profile with community-level physiological profiles (CLPP) using Biolog Eco-plates incubation. We found that R. typhina root extracts inhibit both plant growth and soil microbial activity. Plant height, Root length, soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen (TN) and AWCD were significantly decreased with increasing root extract concentration, and plant above-ground biomass (AGB), below-ground biomass (BGB) and total biomass (TB) were significantly decreased at 10 mg·mL-1 of root extracts. In particular, root extracts significantly reduced the carbon source utilization of carbohydrates, carboxylic acids and polymers, but enhanced phenolic acid. Redundancy analysis shows that soil pH, TN, SOC and EC were the major driving factors of soil microbial activity. Our results indicate that strong allelopathic impact of root extracts on plant growth and soil microbial activity by mimicking roots exudate, providing novel insights into the role of plant-soil microbe interactions in mediating invasion success.
Project description:<h4>Background and aims</h4>In a cost-benefit framework, plant carnivory is hypothesized to be an adaptation to nutrient-poor soils in sunny, wetland habitats. However, apparent exceptions to this cost-benefit model exist, although they have been rarely studied. One of these exceptions is the carnivorous subshrub Drosophyllum lusitanicum , which thrives in Mediterranean heathlands on dry sandstone soils and has relatively well-developed, xeromorphic roots. Here, the roles of leaf (carnivory) and root (soil) nutrient uptake in growth promotion of this particular species were assessed.<h4>Methods</h4>In a greenhouse experiment, plants were fed with laboratory-reared fruit flies ( Drosophila virilis ) and received two concentrations of soil nutrients in a factorial design. Above-ground plant growth and final above- and below-ground dry biomass after 13 weeks were recorded. Nutrient uptake via roots was also evaluated, using stable nitrogen isotope analysis.<h4>Key results</h4>Insect feeding resulted in significantly higher growth and above- and below-ground biomass compared with soil fertilization. No additional benefits of fertilization were discernable when plants were insect-fed, indicating that roots were not efficient in nutrient absorption.<h4>Conclusions</h4>The first evidence of strong reliance on insect prey feeding in a dry-soil carnivorous plant with well-developed roots is provided, suggesting that carnivory per se does not preclude persistence in dry habitats. Instead, the combination of carnivory and xeromorphic root features allows Drosophyllum to thrive on non-waterlogged soils. New evidence is added to recent research emphasizing the role of root systems of carnivorous plants in explaining their distribution, partly challenging the cost-benefit hypothesis.
Project description:<h4>Background and aims</h4>Biomass partitioning for resource conservation might affect plant allometry, accounting for a substantial amount of unexplained variation in existing plant allometry models. One means of resource conservation is through direct allocation to storage in particular organs. In this study, storage allocation and biomass allometry of deciduous and evergreen tree species from seasonal environments were considered. It was expected that deciduous species would have greater allocation to storage in roots to support leaf regrowth in subsequent growing seasons, and consequently have lower scaling exponents for leaf to root and stem to root partitioning, than evergreen species. It was further expected that changes to root carbohydrate storage and biomass allometry under different soil nutrient supply conditions would be greater for deciduous species than for evergreen species.<h4>Methods</h4>Root carbohydrate storage and organ biomass allometries were compared for juveniles of 20 savanna tree species of different leaf habit (nine evergreen, 11 deciduous) grown in two nutrient treatments for periods of 5 and 20 weeks (total dry mass of individual plants ranged from 0·003 to 258·724 g).<h4>Key results</h4>Deciduous species had greater root non-structural carbohydrate than evergreen species, and lower scaling exponents for leaf to root and stem to root partitioning than evergreen species. Across species, leaf to stem scaling was positively related, and stem to root scaling was negatively related to root carbohydrate concentration. Under lower nutrient supply, trees displayed increased partitioning to non-structural carbohydrate, and to roots and leaves over stems with increasing plant size, but this change did not differ between leaf habits.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Substantial unexplained variation in biomass allometry of woody species may be related to selection for resource conservation against environmental stresses, such as resource seasonality. Further differences in plant allometry could arise due to selection for different types of biomass allocation in response to different environmental stressors (e.g. fire vs. herbivory).
Project description:Plant biomass allocation may be optimized to acquire and conserve resources. How trade-offs in the allocation of tropical tree seedlings depend on different stressors remains poorly understood. Here we test whether above- and below-ground traits of tropical tree seedlings could explain observed occurrence along gradients of resources (light, water) and defoliation (fire, herbivory). We grew 24 tree species occurring in five African vegetation types, varying from dry savanna to moist forest, in a glasshouse for 6 months, and measured traits associated with biomass allocation. Classification based on above-ground traits resulted in clusters representing savanna and forest species, with low and high shoot investment, respectively. Classification based on root traits resulted in four clusters representing dry savanna, humid savanna, dry forest and moist forest, characterized by a deep mean rooting depth, root starch investment, high specific root length in deeper soil layers, and high specific root length in the top soil layer, respectively. In conclusion, tree seedlings in this study show root trait syndromes, which vary along gradients of resources and defoliation: seedlings from dry areas invest in deep roots, seedlings from shaded environments optimize shoot investment, and seedlings experiencing frequent defoliation store resources in the roots.
Project description:Improving nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is essential for sustainable agriculture, especially in high-N-demanding crops such as canola (<i>Brassica napus</i>). While advancements in above-ground agronomic practices have improved NUE, research on soil and below-ground processes are limited. Plant NUE-and its components, N uptake efficiency (NUpE), and N utilization efficiency (NUtE)-can be further improved by exploring crop variety and soil N cycling. Canola parental genotypes (NAM-0 and NAM-17) and hybrids (H151857 and H151816) were grown on a dark brown chernozem in Saskatchewan, Canada. Soil and plant samples were collected at the 5-6 leaf stage and flowering, and seeds were collected at harvest maturity. Soil N cycling varied with phenotypic stage, with higher potential ammonium oxidation rates at the 5-6 leaf stage and higher urease activity at flowering. Seed N uptake was higher under higher urea-N rates, while the converse was true for NUE metrics. Hybrids had higher yield, seed N uptake, NUtE, and NUE, with higher NUE potentially owing to higher NUtE at flowering, which led to higher yield and seed N allocation. Soil N cycling and soil N concentrations correlated for improved canola NUE, revealing below-ground breeding targets. Future studies should consider multiple root characteristics, including rhizosphere microbial N cycling, root exudates, and root system architecture, to determine the below-ground dynamics of plant NUE.