Variation of the Linkage of Root Function with Root Branch Order

Long, Yingqian; Kong, Deliang; Chen, Zhengxia; Zeng, Hui
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Mounting evidence has shown strong linkage of root function with root branch order. However, it is not known whether this linkage is consistent in different species. Here, root anatomic traits of the first five branch order were examined in five species differing in plant phylogeny and growth form in tropical and subtropical forests of south China. In Paramichelia baillonii, one tree species in Magnoliaceae, the intact cortex as well as mycorrhizal colonization existed even in the fifth-order root suggesting the preservation of absorption function in the higher-order roots. In contrast, dramatic decreases of cortex thickness and mycorrhizal colonization were observed from lower- to higher-order roots in three other tree species, Cunninghamia lanceolata, Acacia auriculiformis and Gordonia axillaries, which indicate the loss of absorption function. In a fern, Dicranopteris dichotoma, there were several cortex layers with prominently thickened cell wall and no mycorrhizal colonization in the third- and fourth-order roots, also demonstrating the loss of absorptive function in higher-order roots. Cluster analysis using these anatomic traits showed a different classification of root branch order in P. baillonii from other four species. As for the conduit diameter-density relationship in higher-order roots, the mechanism underpinning this relationship in P. baillonii was different from that in other species. In lower-order roots, different patterns of coefficient of variance for conduit diameter and density provided further evidence for the two types of linkage of root function with root branch order. These linkages corresponding to two types of ephemeral root modules have important implication in the prediction of terrestrial carbon cycling, although we caution that this study was pseudo-replicated. Future studies by sampling more species can test the generality of these two types of linkage.


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