Patterns of plant biomass allocation and functional adjustments along climatic gradients are poorly understood, particularly belowground. Generally, low temperatures suppress nutrient release and uptake, and forests under such conditions have a greater proportion of their biomass in roots. However, it is not clear whether 'more roots' means better capacity to acquire soil resources. Herein we quantified patterns of fine-root anatomy and their biomass distribution across Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) populations both along a 2000-km latitudinal gradient and within a common garden experiment with a similar range of populations. We found that with decreasing mean temperature, a greater percentage of Scots pine root biomass was allocated to roots with higher potential absorptive capacity. Similar results were seen in the common experimental site, where cold-adapted populations produced roots with greater absorptive capacity than populations originating from warmer climates. These results demonstrate that plants growing in or originated from colder climates have more acquisitive roots, a trait that is likely adaptive in the face of the low resource availability typical of cold soils.
- Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) ecotypic variation
- genetic control of root development
- latitude gradients
- root cold-adaptation
- roots absorptive capacity