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1 September 2003 Root/Shoot Allocation and Root Architecture in Seedlings: Variation among Forest Sites, Microhabitats, and Ecological Groups
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I analyzed patterns of variation in root mass allocation and root morphology among seedlings of woody species in relation to environmental factors in four Neotropical forests. Among forests, I explored the response of root traits to sites varying in water or nutrient availability. Within each forest, I explored the plastic response of species to different microhabitats: gaps and understory. Additionally, I explored evidence for life history correlation of root and shoot traits by comparing species differing in their successional group (light-demanding [22 spp.] or shade tolerant [27 spp.]) and germination type (species with photosynthetic cotyledons or species with reserve cotyledons). At each forest site, young seedlings from 10 to 20 species were excavated. A total of 55 species was collected in understory conditions and 31 of them were also collected in gaps. From each seedling, six morphological ratios were determined. Allocation to roots was higher in forest sites with the lowest soil resources. Roots were finer and longer in the most infertile site, while roots were deeper in the site with the longest dry season. Seedling traits did not differ between germination types. Shade tolerant species allocated more to roots and developed thicker roots than light-demanding species. Light-demanding species showed stronger plastic responses to habitat than shade tolerant species, and species with photosynthetic cotyledons showed lower plasticity than species with reserve cotyledons. Overall, these results suggest that among Neotropical species, root allocation and root morphology of seedlings reflect plant adjustments to water or nutrient availability at geographic and microhabitat scales. In addition, life history specialization to light environments is suggested by differences among groups of species in their allocation to roots and in their root morphology.

Horacio Paz "Root/Shoot Allocation and Root Architecture in Seedlings: Variation among Forest Sites, Microhabitats, and Ecological Groups," BIOTROPICA 35(3), 318-332, (1 September 2003).
Published: 1 September 2003

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