Redefining fine roots improves understanding of below-ground contributions to terrestrial biosphere processes

M. Luke McCormack, Ian A. Dickie, David M. Eissenstat, Timothy J. Fahey, Christopher W. Fernandez, Dali Guo, Heljä Sisko Helmisaari, Erik A. Hobbie, Colleen M. Iversen, Robert B. Jackson, Jaana Leppälammi-Kujansuu, Richard J. Norby, Richard P. Phillips, Kurt S. Pregitzer, Seth G. Pritchard, Boris Rewald, Marcin Zadworny

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

326 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Fine roots acquire essential soil resources and mediate biogeochemical cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. Estimates of carbon and nutrient allocation to build and maintain these structures remain uncertain because of the challenges of consistently measuring and interpreting fine-root systems. Traditionally, fine roots have been defined as all roots ≤ 2 mm in diameter, yet it is now recognized that this approach fails to capture the diversity of form and function observed among fine-root orders. Here, we demonstrate how order-based and functional classification frameworks improve our understanding of dynamic root processes in ecosystems dominated by perennial plants. In these frameworks, fine roots are either separated into individual root orders or functionally defined into a shorter-lived absorptive pool and a longer-lived transport fine-root pool. Using these frameworks, we estimate that fine-root production and turnover represent 22% of terrestrial net primary production globally - a c. 30% reduction from previous estimates assuming a single fine-root pool. Future work developing tools to rapidly differentiate functional fine-root classes, explicit incorporation of mycorrhizal fungi into fine-root studies, and wider adoption of a two-pool approach to model fine roots provide opportunities to better understand below-ground processes in the terrestrial biosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-518
Number of pages14
JournalNew Phytologist
Volume207
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

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Ecosystem
Fungi
Soil
Carbon
Food
fine roots
biosphere
soil resources
mycorrhizal fungi
root systems
primary productivity
ecosystems
carbon
nutrients

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science

Cite this

McCormack, M. L., Dickie, I. A., Eissenstat, D. M., Fahey, T. J., Fernandez, C. W., Guo, D., ... Zadworny, M. (2015). Redefining fine roots improves understanding of below-ground contributions to terrestrial biosphere processes. New Phytologist, 207(3), 505-518. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.13363
McCormack, M. Luke ; Dickie, Ian A. ; Eissenstat, David M. ; Fahey, Timothy J. ; Fernandez, Christopher W. ; Guo, Dali ; Helmisaari, Heljä Sisko ; Hobbie, Erik A. ; Iversen, Colleen M. ; Jackson, Robert B. ; Leppälammi-Kujansuu, Jaana ; Norby, Richard J. ; Phillips, Richard P. ; Pregitzer, Kurt S. ; Pritchard, Seth G. ; Rewald, Boris ; Zadworny, Marcin. / Redefining fine roots improves understanding of below-ground contributions to terrestrial biosphere processes. In: New Phytologist. 2015 ; Vol. 207, No. 3. pp. 505-518.
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McCormack, ML, Dickie, IA, Eissenstat, DM, Fahey, TJ, Fernandez, CW, Guo, D, Helmisaari, HS, Hobbie, EA, Iversen, CM, Jackson, RB, Leppälammi-Kujansuu, J, Norby, RJ, Phillips, RP, Pregitzer, KS, Pritchard, SG, Rewald, B & Zadworny, M 2015, 'Redefining fine roots improves understanding of below-ground contributions to terrestrial biosphere processes', New Phytologist, vol. 207, no. 3, pp. 505-518. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.13363

Redefining fine roots improves understanding of below-ground contributions to terrestrial biosphere processes. / McCormack, M. Luke; Dickie, Ian A.; Eissenstat, David M.; Fahey, Timothy J.; Fernandez, Christopher W.; Guo, Dali; Helmisaari, Heljä Sisko; Hobbie, Erik A.; Iversen, Colleen M.; Jackson, Robert B.; Leppälammi-Kujansuu, Jaana; Norby, Richard J.; Phillips, Richard P.; Pregitzer, Kurt S.; Pritchard, Seth G.; Rewald, Boris; Zadworny, Marcin.

In: New Phytologist, Vol. 207, No. 3, 01.08.2015, p. 505-518.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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T1 - Redefining fine roots improves understanding of below-ground contributions to terrestrial biosphere processes

AU - McCormack, M. Luke

AU - Dickie, Ian A.

AU - Eissenstat, David M.

AU - Fahey, Timothy J.

AU - Fernandez, Christopher W.

AU - Guo, Dali

AU - Helmisaari, Heljä Sisko

AU - Hobbie, Erik A.

AU - Iversen, Colleen M.

AU - Jackson, Robert B.

AU - Leppälammi-Kujansuu, Jaana

AU - Norby, Richard J.

AU - Phillips, Richard P.

AU - Pregitzer, Kurt S.

AU - Pritchard, Seth G.

AU - Rewald, Boris

AU - Zadworny, Marcin

PY - 2015/8/1

Y1 - 2015/8/1

N2 - Fine roots acquire essential soil resources and mediate biogeochemical cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. Estimates of carbon and nutrient allocation to build and maintain these structures remain uncertain because of the challenges of consistently measuring and interpreting fine-root systems. Traditionally, fine roots have been defined as all roots ≤ 2 mm in diameter, yet it is now recognized that this approach fails to capture the diversity of form and function observed among fine-root orders. Here, we demonstrate how order-based and functional classification frameworks improve our understanding of dynamic root processes in ecosystems dominated by perennial plants. In these frameworks, fine roots are either separated into individual root orders or functionally defined into a shorter-lived absorptive pool and a longer-lived transport fine-root pool. Using these frameworks, we estimate that fine-root production and turnover represent 22% of terrestrial net primary production globally - a c. 30% reduction from previous estimates assuming a single fine-root pool. Future work developing tools to rapidly differentiate functional fine-root classes, explicit incorporation of mycorrhizal fungi into fine-root studies, and wider adoption of a two-pool approach to model fine roots provide opportunities to better understand below-ground processes in the terrestrial biosphere.

AB - Fine roots acquire essential soil resources and mediate biogeochemical cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. Estimates of carbon and nutrient allocation to build and maintain these structures remain uncertain because of the challenges of consistently measuring and interpreting fine-root systems. Traditionally, fine roots have been defined as all roots ≤ 2 mm in diameter, yet it is now recognized that this approach fails to capture the diversity of form and function observed among fine-root orders. Here, we demonstrate how order-based and functional classification frameworks improve our understanding of dynamic root processes in ecosystems dominated by perennial plants. In these frameworks, fine roots are either separated into individual root orders or functionally defined into a shorter-lived absorptive pool and a longer-lived transport fine-root pool. Using these frameworks, we estimate that fine-root production and turnover represent 22% of terrestrial net primary production globally - a c. 30% reduction from previous estimates assuming a single fine-root pool. Future work developing tools to rapidly differentiate functional fine-root classes, explicit incorporation of mycorrhizal fungi into fine-root studies, and wider adoption of a two-pool approach to model fine roots provide opportunities to better understand below-ground processes in the terrestrial biosphere.

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