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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Water Management and Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #357723

Research Project: Improving the Sustainability of Irrigated Farming Systems in Semi-Arid Regions

Location: Water Management and Systems Research

Title: Root functional traits for water and nutrient acquisition linked to plant strategies: unpacking the black box

item Comas, Louise

Submitted to: Gordon Research Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/25/2018
Publication Date: 6/17/2018
Citation: Comas, L.H. 2018. Root functional traits for water and nutrient acquisition linked to plant strategies: unpacking the black box. Gordon Research Conference Proceedings.

Interpretive Summary: N/A

Technical Abstract: Resource availability has long been recognized for playing a major role in structuring plant communities. Nonetheless, a functional understanding of root traits, their plasticity, and their interactions with soil organisms involved in acquiring those resources has largely remained out of focus and outside mainstream ecology. Several patterns of root trait variation can be identified associated with plant strategies for resource acquisition. Fine-root morphological traits are also associated with the evolution of different types of mycorrhizal fungi. Root traits have shifted across evolutionary time frames corresponding to climatic warming and drying, such that more recently diverged species appeared to adapt to a warmer and drier climate by evolving finer roots and less reliance on mycorrhizal fungi. Plant growth strategies have been extended to include root hydraulic properties. Root traits of shade intolerant species were consistent with the ability to proliferate roots quickly for rapid water uptake needed to support rapid shoot growth, while minimizing risk in uncertain environments. The awareness of root functional traits is growing and the ‘black box’ of belowground plant strategies opening as belowground plant traits are recognized for their important role in governing plant success as well as impacts on ecosystem functioning.