Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2014, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (1): 36-44.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1258.2014.00004

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Root architecture and ecological adaptation strategies in three shelterbelt plant species in the southern Taklimakan Desert

GUO Jing-Heng1,2,3,4,5, ZENG Fan-Jiang1,2,3,4,*(), LI Chang-Jun1,2,3,4,5, ZHANG Bo1,2,3,4,5   

  1. 1Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, ürümqi 830011, China
    2Cele National Field Science Observation and Research Station of Desert Grassland Ecosystem, Cele, Xinjiang 848300, China
    3Key Laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresource in Arid Land, Chinese Academy of Sciences, ürümqi 830011, China
    4State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, ürümqi 830011, China
    5University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2013-08-12 Accepted:2013-11-10 Online:2014-01-01 Published:2014-01-15
  • Contact: ZENG Fan-Jiang


Aims Root architectural properties influence the efficiency and cost of resource exploitation of plants. This paper aims to investigate the root topological properties and ecological adaptation strategies of three plant species which play important roles in wind shelterbelt in the southern Taklimakan Desert of China.
Methods We excavated the coarse root systems of three shelterbelt plant species (Tamarix ramosissima, Haloxylon ammodendron, Populus albavar. pyramidalis) at a study site in the southern Taklimakan Desert and analyzed their root architectural properties, including topology, root length, diameter, and scaling relations.
Important findings We found differences as well as similarities in the topological structure of root systems among the three plant species. The differences in root structure reflected different adaptation strategies among the plants to soil environment. The root branching order in both T. ramosissima(qa = 0.46, qb = 0.13, TI = 0.84, qa and qb show normed values corresponding to parameters a and b, respectively, TI shows topological index) and H. ammodendron (qa = 0.63, qb = 0.19, TI = 0.90) resembled the herringbone structure; whilst it was dichotomous in P. albavar. pyramidalis(qa = 0.03, qb = 0.02, TI = 0.49). The main root length in the three plant species was all very along. Longer root length could reduce the internal competition of roots for nutrients, so that plants were better cope with the resource-poor sandy soil environment. The Leonardo da Vinci theory is supported in this study with the three plant species.

Key words: ecological adaptive strategy, Leonardo da Vinci theory, root architecture, root bifurcation ratio, root link length, topological index