EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Root traits as key proxies to unravel plant and ecosystem functioning: entities, trait selection and outlook

Boris Rewald1, Grégoire T. Freschet2,3, Catherine Roumet2, Alexia Stokes2, Monique Weemstra2, Richard D. Bardgett4, A. Glyn Bengough5,6, Louise H. Comas7, Gerlinde B. De Deyn8, David Johnson4, Jitka Klimešová9, Martin Lukac10, M. Luke McCormack11, Ina C. Meier12, Loïc Pagès13, Hendrik Poorter14,15, Ivan Prieto16, Nina Wurzburger17, and Marcin Zadworny18
Boris Rewald et al.
  • 1Forest and Soil Sciences, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria (
  • 2Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175 (CNRS - Université de Montpellier - Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier - EPHE - IRD), Montpellier , France
  • 3Station d’Ecologie Théorique et Expérimentale, CNRS, Moulis, France
  • 4School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  • 5James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie Dundee, UK
  • 6School of Engineering, Mathematics and Physics, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK
  • 7Water Management Research Unit, USDA-ARS, Fort Collins, USA
  • 8Soil Biology and Biological Soil Quality Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 9Institute of Botany, Czech Academy of Sciences, Třeboň, Czech Republic
  • 10School of Agriculture, Policy & Development, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 11Center for Tree Science, Morton Arboretum, Lisle, USA
  • 12Plant Ecology, University of Goettingen, Göttingen, Germany
  • 13Plantes et Systèmes de culture Horticoles, INRA UR 1115, Avignon, France
  • 14Plant Sciences (IBG-2), Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Jülich, Germany
  • 15Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, Australia
  • 16Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del Segura (CSIC), Campus Universitario de Espinardo, Murcia, Spain
  • 17Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, USA
  • 18Institute of Dendrology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kórnik, Poland

Root systems show a tremendous diversity both between and within species, suggesting a large variability in plant functioning and effects on ecosystem properties and processes. In recent decades, developments in many areas of root research have brought considerable advances in our understanding of root traits and their contribution to plant and ecosystem functioning. However, despite major progress, a comprehensive overview—bridging research fields—is lacking. Furthermore, considerable uncertainties exist in the identification of root entities, and the selection and standardized measurement of traits. Here, we provide a comprehensive overview on root entities, exemplify recent advances in our understanding of both theoretical and demonstrated relationships between root traits and plant or ecosystem functioning, discuss trait-trait relationships and hierarchies among traits, and critically assess current strengths and gaps in our knowledge.

How to cite: Rewald, B., Freschet, G. T., Roumet, C., Stokes, A., Weemstra, M., Bardgett, R. D., Bengough, A. G., Comas, L. H., De Deyn, G. B., Johnson, D., Klimešová, J., Lukac, M., McCormack, M. L., Meier, I. C., Pagès, L., Poorter, H., Prieto, I., Wurzburger, N., and Zadworny, M.: Root traits as key proxies to unravel plant and ecosystem functioning: entities, trait selection and outlook, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-20261,, 2020


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