J Plant Ecol ›› 2015, Vol. 8 ›› Issue (1): 70-78.DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtu010

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Resource economics and coordination among above- and below-ground functional traits of three dominant shrubs from the Chilean coastal desert

Joaquín Morales1, Francisco A. Squeo1,2,3, Yann Tracol1, Cristina Armas1,2,* and Julio R. Gutiérrez1,2,3   

  1. 1Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de La Serena, Casilla 554, La Serena, Chile; 2 Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB), Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile; 3 Center of Advanced Studies in Arid Zones, Casilla 554, La Serena, Chile
  • Received:2014-01-07 Accepted:2014-06-26 Published:2015-01-22
  • Contact: Armas, Cristina

Abstract: Aims Plant functional traits determine how plants respond to environmental factors and influence ecosystem processes. Among them, root traits and analyses of relations between above and below-ground traits in natural communities are scarce. Methods we characterized a set of above- and below-ground traits of three dominant shrub species in a semiarid shrub-steppe that had contrasting leaf phenological habits (deciduous, semideciduous and evergreen). We analysed if there was coordination among above- and below-ground resource economics patterns: i.e. patterns of biomass allocation, construction costs and lifespan.
Important findings Above- and below-ground traits and their resource economics relations pointed to species-specific functional strategies to cope with drought and poor soils and to a species ranking of fast to slow whole-plant strategies in terms of resource uptake, biomass construction costs and turnover. The deciduous shrub, Proustia cuneifolia, had relatively deep and even distribution of roots, and high proportion of short-lived tissues of low C construction costs: it had high fine to coarse root and high leaf-to-stem biomass ratios, high specific leaf area (SLA), and stems of low wood density. This strategy allows Proustia to maximize and coordinate above- and below-ground resources uptake as long as the most limiting factor (water) is available, but at the cost of having relative high plant biomass turnover. The evergreen Porlieria chilensis, instead, displayed a more conservative and slow strategy in terms of resource economics. It had ~80% of the roots in the 40cm topsoil profile, low proportion of fine compared with coarse roots and low leaf-to-stem ratios, low SLA and stems of high wood density, i.e. it invested in C costly tissues that, overall, persist longer but probably at the cost of having lower plant resource uptake rates. Traits in the semideciduous Adesmia bedwellii were in between these two functional extremes. Our results revealed high functional diversity and above- and below-ground complementarity in resource economics among these three codominant species in the Chilean coastal desert.

Key words: drought, functional diversity, mass fractions, root distribution, specific leaf area

摘要:
Aims Plant functional traits determine how plants respond to environmental factors and influence ecosystem processes. Among them, root traits and analyses of relations between above and below-ground traits in natural communities are scarce. Methods we characterized a set of above- and below-ground traits of three dominant shrub species in a semiarid shrub-steppe that had contrasting leaf phenological habits (deciduous, semideciduous and evergreen). We analysed if there was coordination among above- and below-ground resource economics patterns: i.e. patterns of biomass allocation, construction costs and lifespan.
Important findings Above- and below-ground traits and their resource economics relations pointed to species-specific functional strategies to cope with drought and poor soils and to a species ranking of fast to slow whole-plant strategies in terms of resource uptake, biomass construction costs and turnover. The deciduous shrub, Proustia cuneifolia, had relatively deep and even distribution of roots, and high proportion of short-lived tissues of low C construction costs: it had high fine to coarse root and high leaf-to-stem biomass ratios, high specific leaf area (SLA), and stems of low wood density. This strategy allows Proustia to maximize and coordinate above- and below-ground resources uptake as long as the most limiting factor (water) is available, but at the cost of having relative high plant biomass turnover. The evergreen Porlieria chilensis, instead, displayed a more conservative and slow strategy in terms of resource economics. It had ~80% of the roots in the 40cm topsoil profile, low proportion of fine compared with coarse roots and low leaf-to-stem ratios, low SLA and stems of high wood density, i.e. it invested in C costly tissues that, overall, persist longer but probably at the cost of having lower plant resource uptake rates. Traits in the semideciduous Adesmia bedwellii were in between these two functional extremes. Our results revealed high functional diversity and above- and below-ground complementarity in resource economics among these three codominant species in the Chilean coastal desert.