Rock fragment content in soils shift root foraging behavior in xerophytic species

Hui Hu, Weikai Bao, David M. Eissenstat, Long Huang, Jian Liu, Fanglan Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Aims: Root traits associated with resource foraging, including fine-root branching intensity, root hair, and mycorrhiza, may change in soils that vary in rock fragment content (RFC), while how these traits covary at the level of individual root branching order is largely unknown. Methods: We subjected two xerophytic species, Artemisia vestita (subshrub) and Bauhinia brachycarpa (shrub), to increasing RFC gradients (0%, 25%, 50%, and 75%, v v− 1) in an arid environment and measured fine-root traits related to resource foraging. Results: Root hair density and mycorrhizal colonization of both species decreased with increasing root order, but increased in third- or fourth-order roots at high RFCs (50% or 75%) compared to low RFCs. The two species tend to produce more root hairs than mycorrhizas under the high RFCs. For both species, root hair density and mycorrhizal colonization intensity were negatively correlated with root length and root diameter across root order and RFCs. Rockiness reduced root branching intensity in both species comparing with rock-free soil. At the same level of RFC, A. vestita had thicker roots and lower branching intensity than B. brachycarpa and tended to produce more root hairs. Conclusion: Our results suggest the high RFC soil conditions stimulated greater foraging functions in higher root orders. We found evidence for a greater investment in root hairs and mycorrhizal symbioses as opposed to building an extensive root system in rocky soils. The two species studied, A. vestita and B. brachycarpa, took different approaches to foraging in the rocky soil through distinctive trait syndromes of fine-root components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-688
Number of pages18
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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