Thirsty tree roots exude more carbon

Preece C., Farré-Armengol G., Llusià J., Peñuelas J. (2018) Thirsty tree roots exude more carbon. Tree Physiology. 38: 690-695.
Doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpx163


Root exudation is an important input of carbon into soils and affects plant and soil communities, but little is known about the effect of climatic factors such as drought on exudation, and its ability to recover. We studied the impact of increasing drought on root exudation and its subsequent recovery in the Mediterranean tree species Quercus ilex L. in a greenhouse study by measuring the amount of total organic carbon in exudates. The amount of exudation per unit root area increased with drought duration and was 21% higher under the most extreme drought scenario compared with the non-droughted control. The amount of root exudation did not differ between the treatments following 6 weeks of re-watering, indicating a strong capacity for recovery in this species. We concluded that drought could affect the amount of root exudation, which could in turn have a large impact on microbial activity in the rhizosphere, and alter these microbial communities, at least in the short term. This tree species may be able to return to normal levels of root exudation after a drought event, but long-term exudate-mediated impacts on Mediterranean forest soils may be an unforeseen effect of drought. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

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