|Title||Does a tradeoff exist between morphological and physiological root plasticity? A comparison of grass growth forms|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||1999|
|Authors||Derner, JD, Briske, DD|
|Keywords||clonal plants, plant foraging, plant-soil relations, Resource heterogeneity|
A series of experiments were conducted to evaluate the potential tradeoff between morphological and physiological root plasticity in caespitose and rhizomatous grass growth forms in semi-arid and mesic communities. Morphological and physiological root plasticity were evaluated with in-growth cores and excised root assays, respectively. The rhizomatous grass in the semi-arid community was the only species to display significant physiological root plasticity, but all species possessed the capacity to proportionally increase 15N uptake with increasing concentrations of (15NH4)2SO4 solution. Neither the caespitose nor the rhizomatous grass displayed morphological root plasticity in response to nitrogen addition in the mesic community. In contrast, significant morphological root plasticity occurred in species of both growth forms in the semi-arid community. These data suggest that the compact architecture and the ability to accumulate nutrients in soils directly beneath caespitose grasses did not increase selection pressure for physiological root plasticity at the expense of morphological root plasticity and that the coarse grained foraging strategy and low density of large diameter roots did not increase morphological root plasticity at the expense of physiological root plasticity in rhizomatous grasses. These preliminary data suggest that 1) a high maximum uptake rate for nitrogen in these perennial grasses may minimize the expression of physiological root plasticity, 2) morphological and physiological root plasticity may represent complimentary, rather than alternative, foraging strategies, and 3) the expression of root plasticity may be strongly influenced by abiotic variables within specific habitats.