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Phenotypic plasticity of Artemisia ordosica seedlings in response to different levels of calcium carbonate in soil

Abstract

Plant phenotypic plasticity is a common feature that is crucial for explaining interspecific competition, dynamics and biological evolution of plant communities. In this study, we tested the effects of soil CaCO3 (calcium carbonate) on the phenotypic plasticity of a psammophyte, Artemisia ordosica, an important plant species on sandy lands in arid and semi-arid areas of China, by performing pot experiments under different CaCO3 contents with a two-factor randomized block design and two orthogonal designs. We analyzed the growth responses (including plant height, root length, shoot-leaf biomass and root biomass) of A. ordosica seedlings to different soil CaCO3 contents. The results revealed that, with a greater soil CaCO3 content, A. ordosica seedlings gradually grew more slowly, with their relative growth rates of plant height, root length, shoot-leaf biomass and root biomass all decreasing significantly. Root N/P ratios showed significant negative correlations with the relative growth rates of plant height, shoot-leaf biomass and root length of A. ordosica seedlings; however, the relative growth rate of root length increased significantly with the root P concentration increased, showing a positive correlation. These results demonstrate that soil CaCO3 reduces the local P availability in soil, which produces a non-adaptive phenotypic plasticity to A. ordosica seedlings. This study should prove useful for planning and promoting the restoration of damaged/degraded vegetation in arid and semi-arid areas of China.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0500706).

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Correspondence to Yubao Gao.

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Xue, P., Zhao, X., Gao, Y. et al. Phenotypic plasticity of Artemisia ordosica seedlings in response to different levels of calcium carbonate in soil. J. Arid Land 11, 58–65 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-018-0072-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-018-0072-4

Keywords

  • Artemisia ordosica
  • N/P ratio
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • relative growth rate
  • soil CaCO3
  • soil P availability
  • arid and semi-arid areas