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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Root trait-microbial relationships across tundra plant species

Spitzer, Clydecia M.; Lindahl, Bjorn; Wardle, David A.; Sundqvist, Maja K.; Gundale, Michael J.; Fanin, Nicolas; Kardol, Paul


Fine roots, and their functional traits, influence associated rhizosphere microorganisms via root exudation and root litter quality. However, little information is known about their relationship with rhizosphere microbial taxa and functional guilds.We investigated the relationships of 11 fine root traits of 20 sub-arctic tundra meadow plant species and soil microbial community composition, using phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) and high-throughput sequencing. We primarily focused on the root economics spectrum, as it provides a useful framework to examine plant strategies by integrating the co-ordination of belowground root traits along a resource acquisition-conservation trade-off axis.We found that the chemical axis of the fine root economics spectrum was positively related to fungal to bacterial ratios, but negatively to Gram-positive to Gram-negative bacterial ratios. However, this spectrum was unrelated to the relative abundance of functional guilds of soil fungi. Nevertheless, the relative abundance of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi was positively correlated to root carbon content, but negatively to the numbers of root forks per root length.Our results suggest that the fine root economics spectrum is important for predicting broader groups of soil microorganisms (i.e. fungi and bacteria), while individual root traits may be more important for predicting soil microbial taxa and functional guilds.


fine root traits; fungi; plant–microorganism interactions; rhizosphere; tundra ecosystems

Published in

New Phytologist
2021, Volume: 229, number: 3, pages: 1508-1520
Publisher: WILEY