Lagging Response of Belowground Functional Traits to Environmental Cues in a Mature Amazonian Tropical Rainforest

Valverde Barrantes, O.J., Oblitas, E., Lugli, L.F., Fuchslueger, L., Cordeiro, A.L., Schaap, K., Andersen, K.M., Garcia, S., et al. (2021). Lagging Response of Belowground Functional Traits to Environmental Cues in a Mature Amazonian Tropical Rainforest. In: AGU Fall Meeting, 13-17 December 2021.

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Context/Purpose: The stress-dominance hypothesis (SDH) is a model of community assembly predicting that the relative importance of environmental filtering increases and competition decreases along a gradient of increasing environmental stress. Therefore, trait variation at the community level should increase as resources are more available. Although the SDH was designed to explain spatial changes in plant communities based on aboveground traits, it is possible that root communities show similar switches in strategies at temporal scales in response to pulses in resource availability.
Methods: To test this hypothesis we sampled for two years the morphological changes in root systems in a mature tropical forest in Central Amazon. Thirty-six samples along a 500 m transect were taken each three months from February 2016 to February 2018, separating the uppermost organic layer (0-5 cm) from the mineral soil (5-15 cm). Besides root biomass, we scanned approximately 20% of the total root systems to calculate specific root length (SRL), average diameter (D), root tissue density (RTD), and branching index (BI). Spatially, we expected shifts from acquisitive to conservative syndromes as roots penetrate in the mineral soil. Temporarily, we hypothesized that traits associated with resource acquisition (SRL, SRTA, BI) will increase with soil moisture. Moreover, we expected that trait range will increase as resources become more available.

Results: We found significant differences in biomass and morphological traits between the organic and mineral soils. We found no patterns between biomass increases in seasonality, but mean community traits change significantly with seasonal rain patterns. More interestingly, changes in mean and range values were more strongly associated with rain events three months before the collecting date, suggesting a lagging between rain events and belowground community responses.

Conclusions: Belowground dynamics are structured spatially and temporarily in tropical forests, in synchrony with the availability of resources, as predicted by the SHD. Our results suggest that species tend to show similar traits during stressful times but diverge during acquisition periods. The results suggest a belowground dimension to niche segregation little explored in tropical biomes to date.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Research Programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Agriculture, Forestry, and Ecosystem Services (AFE)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation (BEC)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2021 11:00
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2021 11:00

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