Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Response of root traits of Reaumuria soongorica and Salsola passerina to facilitation


C3 plant Reaumuria soongorica and C4 plant Salsola passerina are super xerophytes and coexist in a mixed community in either isolated or associated growth, and interspecific facilitation occurs in associated growth. In the present study, the root traits including root distribution, root length (RL), root surface area (RSA), root weight (RW) and specific root length (SRL) of both species in two growth forms were investigated to clarify their response to facilitation in associated growth. Six isolated plants of each species, as well as six associated plants similar in size and development were selected during the plant growing season, and their roots were excavated at 0–10, 10–20, 20–30, 30–40 and 40–50 cm soil depths at the end of the growing season. All the roots of each plant were separated into the two categories of fine roots (<2 mm diameter) and coarse roots (≥2 mm diameter). Root traits such as RL and RSA in the fine and coarse roots were obtained by the root analyzing system WinRHIZO. Most of the coarse roots in R. soongorica and S. passerina were distributed in the top 10 cm of the soil in both growth forms, whereas the fine roots of the two plant species were found mainly in the 10–20 and 20–30 cm soil depths in isolated growth, respectively. However, the fine roots of both species were mostly overlapped in 10–20 cm soil depth in associated growth. The root/canopy ratios of both species reduced, whereas the ratios of their fine roots to coarse roots in RL increased, and both species had an increased SRL in the fine roots in associated growth. In addition, there was the increase in RL of fine roots and content of root N for S. passerina in associated growth. Taken together, the root growth of S. passerina was facilitated for water and nutrient exploration under the interaction of the overlapped roots in both species in associated growth, and higher SRL allowed both species to more effectively adapt to the infertile soil in the desert ecosystem.


C3 plant; C4 plant; facilitation relationship; root traits; specific root length

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