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Mean annual temperature influences local fine root proliferation and arbuscular mycorrhizal colonization in a tropical wet forest

Pierre, S., C. M. Litton, C. P. Giardina, J. P. Sparks and T. J. Fahey. 2020.


Mean annual temperature (MAT) is an influential climate factor affecting the bioavailability of growth%u2010limiting nutrients nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). In tropical montane wet forests, warmer MAT drives higher N bioavailability, while patterns of P availability are inconsistent across MAT. Two important nutrient acquisition strategies, fine root proliferation into bulk soil and root association with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, are dependent on C availability to the plant via primary production. The case study presented here tests whether variation in bulk soil N bioavailability across a tropical montane wet forest elevation gradient (5.2°C MAT range) influences (a) morphology fine root proliferation into soil patches with elevated N, P, and N P relative to background soil and (b) arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) colonization of fine roots in patches. We created a fully factorial fertilized root ingrowth core design (N, P, N P, unfertilized control) representing soil patches with elevated N and P bioavailability relative to background bulk soil. Our results show that percent AMF colonization of roots increased with MAT (r2 = .19, p = .004), but did not respond to fertilization treatments. Fine root length (FRL), a proxy for root foraging, increased with MAT in N P%u2010fertilized patches only (p = .02), while other fine root morphological parameters did not respond to the gradient or fertilized patches. We conclude that in N%u2010rich, fine root elongation into areas with elevated N and P declines while AMF abundance increases with MAT. These results indicate a tradeoff between P acquisition strategies occurring with changing N bioavailability, which may be influenced by higher C availability with warmer MAT.

Key Words

arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, fine roots, mean annual temperature, nitrogen availability, root proliferation, tropical montane wet forest