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Exploring the roots of the problem: How a South American tree adapts to volcanic soils
Date:1/23/2014

s native habitat. How does the production of cluster roots in this Proteaceae enable successful establishment in young volcanic soils of South America?

Small and large E. coccineum seedlings and topsoil were collected at four sites in the Aysn Region of Patagonia, Chile, in 2010-2013. Seedlings were assessed for number and biomass of cluster roots, plant size and growth, and foliar phosphorus levels. Soil samples were analyzed for pH, total nitrogen (N), available phosphorus (P) and organic matter. Based on biomass and chemical analyses, four dominant factors were identified: soil P, soil N, foliar P, and seedling age. A suite of generalized linear mixedeffect model regressions were fitted to the data.

In contrast to previous studies of Proteaceae in Australia and South Africa, the best-fit model for predicting the number of cluster roots in this study did not contain any soil P factor; foliar P levels correlated with cluster root formation. The number of cluster roots was significantly higher in large seedlings, yet biomass investment in cluster roots was greater for small seedlings.

Piper found that cluster roots mediate a decoupling of foliar P from soil P concentrations for small seedlings. This enabled small seedlings to maintain adequate foliar P levels, critical to their ontogenetic growth. The relative investment in cluster roots was directly linked to both low soil N and leaf P. Seedlings from sites with lower total soil N had more cluster roots, regardless of other soil characteristics. The cluster root adaptation is very sensitive and highly expressed at low total soil N levels but rapidly disappears as soil N levels increase. The investment in cluster roots declines after seedling establishment, most likely as aerial growth is increasingly important for light competition.

Embothrium coccineum may have an important role in reforestation of Patagonia as an early successional species. Cluster roots h
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Contact: Richard Hund
rhund@botany.org
314-577-9557
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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