Constitutive and plastic root traits and their role in differential tolerance to soil flooding among coexisting species of a lowland grassland

Agustín A. Grimoldi, Pedro Insausti, Viviana Vasellati, Gustavo G. Striker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Natural flooding is a major component of the disturbance regime in many grassland ecosystems. The objective of this study was to analyze the relationship among constitutive and plastic root traits and tolerance to flooding in coexisting perennial species of the flooding pampa grasslands (Argentina). A mesocosm experiment was designed for five native species (Paspalidium paludivagum, Paspalum dilatatum, Bothriochloa laguroides, Eryngium ebracteatum, and Eclipta bellidioides) and two exotic ones (Mentha pulegium and Plantago lanceolata). Across species, constitutive root porosity was positively correlated with the tolerance to soil flooding. Moreover, the generation of additional aerenchyma was larger in species with intermediate values of constitutive root porosity and lower in species with low or high constitutive root porosity. This differential increase in the root porosity of each species, combined with the values of constitutive root porosity, resulted in a stronger correlation between final root porosity and tolerance under flooding conditions. Native grasses increased the proportion of root aerenchyma, showing a small change in the number of lysed cells but a significant increase in the cortex proportion and diameter of roots. Exotic dicots generated lysigenous aerenchyma throughout their cortex; in contrast, native dicot species maintained the cell layers adjacent to the stele. A lag in the development of secondary growth during flooding was detected in both groups of dicots, a response that was particularly evident in the exotic species, contrasting with their prominent growth under nonflooded conditions. In general, our results indicate that constitutive and plastic root traits are very significant in terms of the effects of periodic flooding on the abundance of coexisting species of the flooding pampa grasslands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-813
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Plant Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


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