Foraging strategies in trees of different root morphology: The role of root lifespan

Thomas S. Adams, M. Luke Mccormack, David M. Eissenstat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Resource exploitation of patches is influenced not simply by the rate of root production in the patches but also by the lifespan of the roots inhabiting the patches. We examined the effect of sustained localized nitrogen (N) fertilization on root lifespan in four tree species that varied widely in root morphology and presumed foraging strategy. The study was conducted in a 12-year-old common garden in central Pennsylvania using a combination of data from minirhizotron and root in-growth cores. The two fine-root tree species, Acer negundo L. and Populus tremuloides Michx., exhibited significant increases in root lifespan with local N fertilization; no significant responses were observed in the two coarse-root tree species, Sassafras albidum Nutt. and Liriodendron tulipifera L. Across species, coarse-root tree species had longer median root lifespan than fine-root tree species. Localized N fertilization did not significantly increase the N concentration or the respiration of the roots growing in the N-rich patch. Our results suggest that some plant species appear to regulate the lifespan of different portions of their root system to improve resource acquisition while other species do not. Our results are discussed in the context of different strategies of foraging of nutrient patches in species of different root morphology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)940-948
Number of pages9
JournalTree Physiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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