Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2023, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (8): 1055-1070.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2022.0456

Special Issue: 根系生态学 菌根真菌 植物功能性状

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Research advances on trade-off relationships of plant fine root functional traits

SUN Jia-Hui, SHI Hai-Lan, CHEN Ke-Yu, JI Bao-Ming, ZHANG Jing*()   

  1. School of Grassland Science, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
  • Received:2022-11-11 Accepted:2023-03-13 Online:2023-08-20 Published:2023-03-13
  • Contact: *ZHANG Jing(
  • Supported by:
    The Third Xinjiang Scientific Expedition Program(2022xjkk0403);National Natural Science Foundation of China(31800380)


Trade-offs among plant functional traits reflect the trade-off relationships between resource acquisition and conservation of different plants, which are of pivotal importance for understanding the mechanisms by which plants adapt to the environment. However, due to the heterogeneity of the soil environment and the limitations of technical means, the study of below-ground root functional traits and their interrelationships is currently lagging behind that of above-ground functional traits. Traditionally, fine roots have been defined as all roots ≤2 mm in diameter. The acquisition and utilization of soil resources by plants depends on architectural traits, morphological traits, chemical traits and biotic traits of fine roots and so on, including fine roots associations with mycorrhizal fungi. Recently, the root economics space has been proposed, which demonstrates the existence of trade-offs between the do-it-yourself strategy of plants increasing their own root surface area and the outsourcing strategy of investments into fungal symbionts for enhanced nutrient mobilization from hyphal expansion, in addition to the traditional trade-offs between fast (high nitrogen content and metabolic rate) and slow (high tissue density) investment return. It was found that thin-root species obtained soil resources mainly by increasing specific root length, whereas thick-root species relied more on mycorrhizal fungi. However, the carbon economy of resource acquisition through the root and mycorrhizal hyphal pathways remains unclear. In future research, the key issues of root functional traits were suggested as follows: 1) for research methods, it is urgent to establish a unified set of definitions and research methods for root classification, sampling, storage, functional traits and their research methods; 2) for research traits, the research of “hard” traits of fine roots should be strengthened; 3) for the trade-offs between functional traits of fine roots, it is of great significance to strengthen the study of the trade-offs between construction costs and resource benefits between plant roots and mycorrhizal fungi.

Key words: fine root, functional trait, mycorrhizae, trade-off strategy