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Do we need new rhizosphere models for rock-dominated landscapes?

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The Original Article was published on 26 September 2012

Abstract

Background

In this issue, Estrada-Medina and coworkers described the diversity of materials in the rhizosphere of the Yucatán karst, México, and quantified the distribution of roots across karst features.

Scope

This commentary explores the implications of their work for below-ground competition and the dynamics of plant-available water on seasonal to inter-annual timescales. Though details differ, seasonal dynamics of water use were consistent with a two-layer model, characterized by water uptake from shallow soil and rock layers during the wet season and deeper soil pockets and rock layers during the dry season. Soil pockets were more densely rooted than rock and experienced large fluctuations in soil moisture, suggesting intense below-ground competition. Total water storage capacity in the rhizosphere was far greater than actual storage in the year of the study. This raises the question whether some storage components in the karst rhizosphere fluctuate on time scales exceeding 1 year.

Conclusions

Despite the significant global extent of karst and their larger than proportional contribution to global biodiversity, vegetation models have ignored their unique rhizosphere structure. Differences in water storage could affect the responses of karst ecosystems and communities to climate change.

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Acknowledgments

Many thanks to Hector Estrada-Medina who provided important feedback and access to data during the preparation of this commentary.

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Correspondence to Susanne Schwinning.

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Responsible Editor: Hans Lambers.

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Schwinning, S. Do we need new rhizosphere models for rock-dominated landscapes?. Plant Soil 362, 25–31 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-012-1482-2

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