iDiv: sRoot workshop

iDiv: sRoot workshop


iDiv: sRoot Workshop, 22nd-23nd October 2018

Members of our working group participated in the sRoot workshop:


sROOT: root trait functionality in a whole-plant context


PIs: Alexandra Weigelt & Liesje Mommer

Funded by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiveristy Research (iDiv)

Roots perform multiple functions including plant anchorage, resource uptake, and soil formation. Plants have evolved a wide range of root traits to simultaneously perform these functions. This variation in root traits may have important consequences especially for belowground ecosystem functioning. Yet, root traits have long been overlooked in plant trait research and the relationships among different facets of root traits, between root and leaf traits, and between root traits and belowground ecosystem functioning remain poorly understood. The main aim of sROOT is to contribute significantly to these hot topics in ecology by developing a multidimensional framework to functionally understand variation of root traits at different scales.

The first of three sROOT workshops was held in October 2018 with 18 participants. The main goals of this workshops were (1) to form a group spirit, (2) in depths discussions of the concept of multidimensional root trait variation, (3) supportive work and discussions on the sROOT database of fine root traits and (4) an outline of paper projects and future workshop contents.

We approached our first goal with a combination of classical and innovative ideas on working in groups including speed-dating and organized board games on the first evening which was so positively received that the majority of participants ended up playing some game whenever we went out for dinner together. Our second goal centered around two main axes of root trait variation with specific root length (SRL) against root diameter (RD) forming the first axis and root nitrogen (RN) versus root tissue density (RTD) on an orthogonal second axis and how these traits might be linked to the importance of mycorrhizal colonasation of roots. Our conceptual idea suggests that root economic spans two important trade-offs that were generated by different selective pressures. The first is a strong tradeoff between diameter and SRL which represents a gradient in collaboration with fungal partners (high root diameter outsource resource acquisition to fungal partners whereas high SRL have a do-it-yourself strategy). The second is a tradeoff between RTD and RN with represents a gradient of tissue construction costs. These two trade-offs span the economic dimensions of root form and function. We started to test this idea with our fine root database during the workshop and found at least the main axes were as expected. The database (goal 3) was a clear priority of the first workshop and we were able to hire a short term postdoc, Nathaly Guerrero-Ramirez, to do most of the work before we started and after. As a result of her tedious work we had our database almost finished by the end of the workshop. sROOT participants identified four individual paper projects (goal 4) as outcome for the group. The first will be a data paper of the sROOT database lead by Nathaly Guerrero-Ramirez. The second s planned as a high ranking paper on our conceptual idea and testing. This paper is lead by Joana Bergmann. Data analysis for this paper is lead by Alfons van der Plas together with Larry York. We intend to have time for intensive text work and discussion during the second workshop. Our third paper will focus on the link between trait-coordination and environmental gradients. This paper will be lead by Daniel Laughlin and will be the main goal of the second sROOT workshop. Paper number four will most likely focus on above-belowground trait correlations and the link between the two economic spectrums. This topic will be the focus of sROOT workshop 3 in January 2020.

last modified: 10.09.2019