Root positioning and trait shifts in Hibbertia racemosa as dependent on its neighbour's nutrient-acquisition strategy

Patrícia de Britto Costa, Christiana Staudinger, Erik J. Veneklaas, Rafael S. Oliveira, Hans Lambers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Web of Science)


Nutrient-poor ecosystems globally exhibit high plant diversity. One mechanism enabling the co-existence of species in such ecosystems is facilitation among plants with contrasting nutrient-acquisition strategies. The ecophysiological processes underlying these interactions remain poorly understood. We hypothesized that root positioning plays a role between sympatric species in nutrient-poor vegetation. We investigated how the growth traits of the focal mycorrhizal non-cluster-rooted Hibbertia racemosa change when grown in proximity of non-mycorrhizal Banksia attenuata, which produces cluster roots that increase nutrient availability, compared with growth with conspecifics. Focal plants were placed in the centre of rhizoboxes, and biomass allocation, root system architecture, specific root length (SRL), and leaf nutrient concentration were assessed. When grown with B. attenuata, focal plants decreased root investment, increased root growth towards B. attenuata, and positioned their roots near B. attenuata cluster roots. SRL was greater, and the degree of localized root investment correlated positively with B. attenuata cluster-root biomass. Total nutrient contents in the focal individuals were greater when grown with B. attenuata. Focal plants directed their root growth towards the putatively facilitating neighbour's cluster roots, modifying root traits and investment. Preferential root positioning and root morphological traits play important roles in positive plant–plant interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1257-1267
Number of pages11
JournalPlant Cell and Environment
Issue number4
Early online date2 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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