Plant sizes and shapes above and belowground and their interactions with climate.
Although the above and belowground sizes and shapes of plants strongly influence plant competition, community structure, and plant-environment interactions, plant sizes and shapes remain poorly characterized across climate regimes. We investigated relationships among shoot and root system size and climate. We assembled and analyzed, to our knowledge, the largest global database describing the maximum rooting depth, lateral spread, and shoot size of terrestrial plants - more than doubling the Root Systems of Individual Plants database to 5647 observations. Water availability and growth form greatly influence shoot size, and rooting depth is primarily influenced by temperature seasonality. Shoot size is the strongest predictor of lateral spread, with root system diameter being two times wider than shoot width on average for woody plants. Shoot size covaries strongly with rooting system size; however, the geometries of plants differ considerably across climates, with woody plants in more arid climates having shorter shoots, but deeper, narrower root systems. Additionally, estimates of the depth and lateral spread of plant root systems are likely underestimated at the global scale.
Tumber-Dávila, SJ; Schenk, HJ; Du, E; Jackson, RB
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