Multivariate control of root biomass in a semi-arid grassland on the Loess Plateau, China
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- Zhu, H., Fu, B., Lv, N. et al. Plant Soil (2014) 379: 315. doi:10.1007/s11104-014-2067-z
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Root biomass has long been under-represented in biodiversity–ecosystem functioning studies, despite its dominance in biomass in many arid and semi-arid ecosystems. We aimed to explore the multivariate control over root biomass by plant diversity, together with other biotic and abiotic factors and to evaluate the relative importance of these factors.
Above- and below-ground traits of 13 communities and soil properties were measured in semi-arid grasslands on the Loess Plateau, China. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to evaluate the relative importance of the community and soil characteristics, emphasizing the direct and indirect effects of plant diversity on root biomass.
Significant indirect effects of plant species richness on root biomass were found, although no direct correlation was detected between them. In the indirect pathways, plant species richness showed a positive effect on soil total nitrogen, but a significant negative influence on soil total carbon. Soil total nitrogen and plant diversity had the largest and smallest total effect respectively on root biomass in the model.
Plant species richness was not the strongest determinant of root biomass but had a significant indirect effect, mediated through soil total carbon and nitrogen. This study suggests that greater plant species richness, through a positive influence on soil total nitrogen, may indirectly promote root carbon stock.