Root Biology

Evolutionary History and Global Variation in Fine-Root Traits Among Woody Plants

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A collaborative group across China, Europe, and the United States continues to collaborate on this project at The Morton Arboretum, using the extensive collection of woody plant species with notably rich coverage of diverse gymnosperm species that are currently underrepresented in previous global surveys.

Driven by narrowing root diameters and an apparent reduction in plant reliance on symbiotic soil fungi (i.e. mycorrhizal fungi) among more recently derived plant groups, fine-root trait evolution within the angiosperm lineage has led to broad shifts in plant strategies for belowground resource acquisition. However, it is unclear whether this pattern is consistent across all plants and if the pattern of narrowing diameter and reduced fungal reliance is the same across different dominant types of mycorrhizal fungi.

In this project, we utilize field sampling and laboratory analyses of fine-root samples to determine patterns of trait evolution among two dominant mycorrhizal types and across major plant families, with particular emphasis on understudied gymnosperm families.


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