Do fine root morphological and functional adaptations support regrowth success in a tropical forest restoration experiment?

Hofhansl, F. ORCID:, Barrantes, O.V., Chacón-Madrigal, E., Hietz, P., Weissenhofer, A., Prommer, J., Wanek, W., & Fuchslueger, L. (2023). Do fine root morphological and functional adaptations support regrowth success in a tropical forest restoration experiment? In: EGU General Assembly 2023, 23-28 April 2023, Vienna.

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In early stages of forest succession plants have a high nutrient demand, but it is still a matter of debate if regrowth success of pioneer species is related to plant functional traits favoring fast soil colonization and nutrient acquisition. In general, we would expect trade-offs between plant growth performance and fine root morphological properties in association with different plant life-history strategies. Hence, we hypothesized that fast growing plants should have a more efficient root system that allows them to outcompete slow-growing neighbors in a resource-limited environment.

To test our hypothesis we monitored plant successional growth dynamics in a tropical lowland rainforest reforestation experiment conducted in southwest Costa Rica. We collected absorptive roots (<2mm diameter) from plant individuals (comprising 20 tree species and 11 plant families) with different growth dynamics (as indicated by measurements of stem diameter and height). For these samples we assessed a suite of fine root morphological traits, such as legume nodulation status, and furthermore quantified fine root nutrient concentration and phosphatase activities, as well as microbial biomass and phosphatase activity in soils in the close vicinity of fine roots.

We found stark differences in fine root characteristics between the tree species investigated in this study, such that fast growing species exhibited relatively larger specific root length and higher turnover, whereas slow growing species tend to rely on mechanical resistance by increasing root tissue density and root life span. Our results suggest that the identified differences in the root trait spectrum between fast and slow growing species reflect plant functional adaptions to resource limitation, edaphic properties and soil microbial symbioses. Our findings further highlight the crucial need to foster our understanding of belowground root morphological and physiological traits during forest succession, especially so when aiming to restore forest ecosystem functioning in formerly intensified land-use systems.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
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: 25 Apr 2023 12:47
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 07:36

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