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Drought‐induced changes in root biomass largely result from altered root morphological traits: Evidence from a synthesis of global field trials

Zhou, Guiyao, Zhou, Xuhui, Nie, Yuanyuan, Bai, Shahla Hosseini, Zhou, Lingyan, Shao, Junjiong, Cheng, Weisong, Wang, Jiawei, Hu, Fengqin, Fu, Yuling
Plant, cell and environment 2018 v.41 no.11 pp. 2589-2599
aerenchyma, biomass, biosphere, climate change, drought, field experimentation, models, mortality, prediction
Extreme drought is likely to become more frequent and intense as a result of global climate change, which may significantly impact plant root traits and responses (i.e., morphology, production, turnover, and biomass). However, a comprehensive understanding of how drought affects root traits and responses remains elusive. Here, we synthesized data from 128 published studies under field conditions to examine the responses of 17 variables associated with root traits to drought. Our results showed that drought significantly decreased root length and root length density by 38.29% and 11.12%, respectively, but increased root diameter by 3.49%. However, drought significantly increased root:shoot mass ratio and root cortical aerenchyma by 13.54% and 90.7%, respectively. Our results suggest that drought significantly modified root morphological traits and increased root mortality, and the drought‐induced decrease in root biomass was less than shoot biomass, causing higher root:shoot mass ratio. The cascading effects of drought on root traits and responses may need to be incorporated into terrestrial biosphere models to improve prediction of the climate–biosphere feedback.