UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Intraspecific Fine-Root Trait-Environment Relationships across Interior Douglas-Fir Forests of Western Canada Defrenne, Camille E.; McCormack, M. Luke; Roach, W. Jean; Addo-Danso, Shalom D.; Simard, S. (Suzanne)


Variation in resource acquisition strategies enables plants to adapt to different environments and may partly determine their responses to climate change. However, little is known about how belowground plant traits vary across climate and soil gradients. Focusing on interior Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) in western Canada, we tested whether fine-root traits relate to the environment at the intraspecific level. We quantified the variation in commonly measured functional root traits (morphological, chemical, and architectural traits) among the first three fine-root orders (i.e., absorptive fine roots) and across biogeographic gradients in climate and soil factors. Moderate but consistent trait-environment linkages occurred across populations of Douglas-fir, despite high levels of within-site variation. Shifts in morphological traits across regions were decoupled from those in chemical traits. Fine roots in colder/drier climates were characterized by a lower tissue density, higher specific area, larger diameter, and lower carbon-to-nitrogen ratio than those in warmer/wetter climates. Our results showed that Douglas-fir fine roots do not rely on adjustments in architectural traits to adapt rooting strategies in different environments. Intraspecific fine-root adjustments at the regional scale do not fit along a single axis of root economic strategy and are concordant with an increase in root acquisitive potential in colder/drier environments.

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