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Root foraging for patchy resources in eight herbaceous plant species

Rajaniemi, Tara K., Reynolds, Heather L.
Oecologia 2004 v.141 no.3 pp. 519-525
foraging, herbaceous plants, indigenous species, introduced species, roots, soil resources
The root foraging strategy of a plant species can be characterized by measuring foraging scale, precision, and rate. Trade-offs among these traits have been predicted to contribute to coexistence of competitors. We tested for trade-offs among root foraging scale (total root mass and length of structural roots), precision (ln-ratio of root lengths in resource-rich and resource-poor patches), and rate (days required for roots to reach a resource-rich patch, or growth rate of roots within a resource-rich patch) in eight co-occurring species. We found that root foraging scale and precision were positively correlated, as were foraging scale and the rate of reaching patches. High relative growth rate of a species did not contribute to greater scale, precision, or rate of root foraging. Introduced species had greater foraging scale, precision, and rate than native species. The positive correlations between foraging scale and foraging precision and rate may give larger species a disproportionate advantage in competition for patchy soil resources, leading to size asymmetric competition below ground.