Root architecture and hydraulic conductance in nutrient deprived Pistacia lentiscus L. seedlings
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- Trubat, R., Cortina, J. & Vilagrosa, A. Oecologia (2012) 170: 899. doi:10.1007/s00442-012-2380-2
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Plants respond to low nutrient availability by modifying root morphology and root system topology. Root responses to nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) limitation may affect plant capacity to withstand water stress. But studies on the effect of nutrient availability on plant ability to uptake and transport water are scarce. In this study, we assess the effect of nitrogen and phosphorus limitation on root morphology and root system topology in Pistacia lentiscus L seedlings, a common Mediterranean shrub, and relate these changes to hydraulic conductivity of the whole root system. Nitrogen and phosphorus deprivation had no effect on root biomass, but root systems were more branched in nutrient limited seedlings. Total root length was higher in seedlings subjected to phosphorus deprivation. Root hydraulic conductance decreased in nutrient-deprived seedlings, and was related to the number of root junctions but not to other architectural traits. Our study shows that changes in nutrient availability affect seedling water use by modifying root architecture. Changes in nutrient availability should be taken into account when evaluating seedling response to drought.