Fine Root Distribution and Persistence Under Field Conditions of Three Co-Occurring Great Basin Species of Different Life form
Fine roots of an annual grass, a perennial grass and a perennial shrub were examined. Based on life histories and tissue composition, we expected the greatest root persistence for the shrub and shortest for the annual grass. Roots were observed with minirhizotrons over 2 yr for number, length and diameter changes. A Cox proportional hazard regression correlated root persistence with soil water, depth, diameter and date of production. In 2001, grass roots had similar persistence times, but shrub roots had the shortest. In 2002, the annual had the longest median root persistence, the perennial grass intermediate and the perennial shrub had the shortest. All species responded similarly to the magnitude of seasonal precipitation; root numbers increased with favorable soil moisture and disappeared with drying; fewer, thinner roots at greater soil depths were found in the drier year (2001). Root persistence increased with soil moisture, diameter and earlier appearance in the spring. Plasticity in root morphology and placement was influenced by water availability, yet persistence was surprisingly contrary to expectations.
Peek MS, Leffler AJ, Ivans CY, Ryel RJ, Caldwell MM (2005) Fine root distribution and persistence under field conditions of three co-occurring Great Basin species of different life form. New Phytologist 165:171-180.