Adaptive root foraging strategies along a boreal–temperate forest gradient

Ivika Ostonen, Marika Truu, Heljä-Sisko Marketta Helmisaari, Martin Lukac, Werner Borken, Elena Vanguelova, Douglas L. Godbold, Krista Lohmus, Ulrich Zang, Leho Tedersoo, Preem Jens-Konrad, Katrin Rosenwald, Jurgen Aosaar, Kestutis Armolaitis, Jane Frey, Naima Kabral, Mai Kukumägi, Jaana Leppälammi-Kujansuu, Antti-Jussi Lindroos, Päivi MeriläUlle Napa, Pekka Nöjd, Kaarin Parts, Veiko Uri, Mats Varik, Jaak Truu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The tree root–mycorhizosphere plays a key role in resource uptake, but also in the adaptation of forests to changing environments.
The adaptive foraging mechanisms of ectomycorrhizal (EcM) and fine roots of Picea abies, Pinus sylvestris and Betula pendula were evaluated along a gradient from temperate to subarctic boreal forest (38 sites between latitudes 48°N and 69°N) in Europe. Variables describing tree resource uptake structures and processes (absorptive fine root biomass and morphology, nitrogen (N) concentration in absorptive roots, extramatrical mycelium (EMM) biomass, community structure of root-associated EcM fungi, soil and rhizosphere bacteria) were used to analyse relationships between root system functional traits and climate, soil and stand characteristics.
Absorptive fine root biomass per stand basal area increased significantly from temperate to boreal forests, coinciding with longer and thinner root tips with higher tissue density, smaller EMM biomass per root length and a shift in soil microbial community structure. The soil carbon (C) : N ratio was found to explain most of the variability in absorptive fine root and EMM biomass, root tissue density, N concentration and rhizosphere bacterial community structure.
We suggest a concept of absorptive fine root foraging strategies involving both qualitative and quantitative changes in the root–mycorrhiza–bacteria continuum along climate and soil C : N gradients.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Phytologist
Pages (from-to)977-991
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 4112 Forestry
  • boreal and temperate forests
  • climate gradient
  • ectomycorrhizal (EcM) mycelium
  • fine and ectomycorrhizal root biomass
  • root foraging
  • root morphology
  • soil and rhizosphere bacteria
  • soil C:N ratio

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