EGU23-13211, updated on 21 Apr 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Do fine root morphological and functional adaptations support regrowth success in a tropical forest restoration experiment?

Florian Hofhansl1, Oscar Valverde Barrantes2, Eduardo Chacón-Madrigal3, Peter Hietz4, Anton Weissenhofer5, Judith Prommer6, Wolfgang Wanek6, and Lucia Fuchslueger6
Florian Hofhansl et al.
  • 1International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Schlossplatz 1, 2361 Laxenburg, Austria
  • 2International Center on Tropical Botany, Florida International University, USA
  • 3Escuela de Biología, Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica
  • 4Department of Integrative Biology and Biodiversity Research, Institute of Botany, Gregor-Mendel-Straße 33 1180 Vienna, Austria
  • 5Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research, University of Vienna, Rennweg 14, 1030 Vienna, Austria
  • 6Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Sciences, University of Vienna, Austria, Djerassiplatz 1, 1030 Vienna, Austria

In early stages of forest succession plants have a high nutrient demand, but it is still a matter of debate if regrowth success of pioneer species is related to plant functional traits favoring fast soil colonization and nutrient acquisition. In general, we would expect trade-offs between plant growth performance and fine root morphological properties in association with different plant life-history strategies. Hence, we hypothesized that fast growing plants should have a more efficient root system that allows them to outcompete slow-growing neighbors in a resource-limited environment.

To test our hypothesis we monitored plant successional growth dynamics in a tropical lowland rainforest reforestation experiment conducted in southwest Costa Rica. We collected absorptive roots (<2mm diameter) from plant individuals (comprising 20 tree species and 11 plant families) with different growth dynamics (as indicated by measurements of stem diameter and height). For these samples we assessed a suite of fine root morphological traits, such as legume nodulation status, and furthermore quantified fine root nutrient concentration and phosphatase activities, as well as microbial biomass and phosphatase activity in soils in the close vicinity of fine roots.

We found stark differences in fine root characteristics between the tree species investigated in this study, such that fast growing species exhibited relatively larger specific root length and higher turnover, whereas slow growing species tend to rely on mechanical resistance by increasing root tissue density and root life span. Our results suggest that the identified differences in the root trait spectrum between fast and slow growing species reflect plant functional adaptions to resource limitation, edaphic properties and soil microbial symbioses. Our findings further highlight the crucial need to foster our understanding of belowground root morphological and physiological traits during forest succession, especially so when aiming to restore forest ecosystem functioning in formerly intensified land-use systems.

How to cite: Hofhansl, F., Valverde Barrantes, O., Chacón-Madrigal, E., Hietz, P., Weissenhofer, A., Prommer, J., Wanek, W., and Fuchslueger, L.: Do fine root morphological and functional adaptations support regrowth success in a tropical forest restoration experiment?, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-13211,, 2023.