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

Xue, Pingping, Zhao, Xuelai, Gao, Yubao, He, Xingdong
Journal of Arid Land 2019 v.11 no.1 pp. 58-65
Artemisia, arid lands, biomass, calcium carbonate, evolution, interspecific competition, phenotypic plasticity, planning, plant height, seedlings, semiarid zones, soil, vegetation, China
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.