Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2018, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (2): 164-172.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2017.0203

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Response of fine roots to precipitation change: A meta-analysis

ZHANG Xin1,XING Ya-Juan1,2,YAN Guo-Yong1,WANG Qing-Gui1,*()   

  1. 1 College of Agricultural Resource and Environment, Heilongjiang University, Harbin 150080, China
    2 Institute of Forestry Science of Heilongjiang Province, Harbin 150081, China
  • Online:2018-04-16 Published:2018-02-20
  • Contact: Qing-Gui WANG
  • Supported by:
    Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(41773075);the National Basic Research Priorities Program of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China(2014FY11060);the Key Projects of Natural Science Foundation of Heilongjiang Province(ZD201406)


Aims The response of fine roots to soil moisture is very sensitive. Climate change scenarios predict changes in precipitation which influence soil moisture directly. Plants optimize resource acquisition by fine root morphological plasticity and biomass redistribution when soil moisture changes. Therefore, it is important to study the effect of precipitation increase and decrease on fine roots and reveal the response of ecosystem carbon cycling to global climate change.

Methods We collected 202 sets of data from 48 published domestic and foreign articles, and analized the responses of fine root biomass, production, turnover, root length density, specific root length and soil microbial biomass carbon which reflects fine root decomposition dynamic to precipitation change by the meta-analysis. RR++ (weighted response ratio) was used to quantify the effect size of the response of fine roots to precipitation change.

Important findings (1) The significance and magnitude of the precipitation effects on fine roots varied among plant types. Shrub fine roots had stronger response than tree fine roots. (2) The response of fine roots differed across soil depth. Fine root had most significant responses when the precipitation increased or decreased 50%. A 50% increase in precipitation had a significant positive impact on both fine root biomass in 20-40 cm soil and specific root length in 0-10 cm soil depth. A 50% decreased in precipitation had a significant negative impact on fine root production in 20-40 cm soil but positive impact on root length density in 0-10 cm soil. (3) The duration of experiment affected the response of fine roots, fine roots responded to precipitation changes (increase and decrease) by morphological plasticity in short-term experiments, and by biomass redistribution in long-term experiments. (4) Increasing precipitation contributed to the nutrient release of fine roots, because soil microbes accelerated the decomposability of fine roots due to sufficient substrate resources stimulated their own activity.

Key words: precipitation change, fine root biomass, production, root length density, specific root length, fine root decomposition, meta-analysis

Fig. 1

Weighted response ratio of increasing (A) or reducing (B) precipitation on fine root of different plant type and soil microbial biomass carbon. The variables are categorized into different groups depending on plant types. The number in parentheses represents the sample size for each variable. Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals. MBC, soil microbial biomass carbon; RLD, root length density; SRL, specific root length."

Fig. 2

Weighted response ratio (RR++) of different increasing (A) or reducing (B) precipitation amount on each soil layer fine root. The variables are categorized into different groups depending on duration. The number in parentheses represents the sample size for each variable. Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals. RLD, root length density; SRL, specific root length."

Fig. 3

Weighted response ratio (RR++) of increasing (A) or reducing (B) precipitation on fine root and soil microbial biomass carbon under different duration of experiment . The variables are categorized into different groups depending on duration. The number in parentheses represents the sample size for each variable. Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals. MBC, soil microbial biomass carbon; RLD, root length density; SRL, specific root length."

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