Scots pine fine roots adjust along a 2000-km latitudinal climatic gradient

The New Phytologist
Marcin ZadwornyJacek Oleksyn


Patterns of plant biomass allocation and functional adjustments along climatic gradients are poorly understood, particularly belowground. Generally, low temperatures suppress nutrient release and uptake, and forests under such conditions have a greater proportion of their biomass in roots. However, it is not clear whether 'more roots' means better capacity to acquire soil resources. Herein we quantified patterns of fine-root anatomy and their biomass distribution across Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) populations both along a 2000-km latitudinal gradient and within a common garden experiment with a similar range of populations. We found that with decreasing mean temperature, a greater percentage of Scots pine root biomass was allocated to roots with higher potential absorptive capacity. Similar results were seen in the common experimental site, where cold-adapted populations produced roots with greater absorptive capacity than populations originating from warmer climates. These results demonstrate that plants growing in or originated from colder climates have more acquisitive roots, a trait that is likely adaptive in the face of the low resource availability typical of cold soils.


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