Gross, K. L., A. Peters, and K. S. Pregitzer. 1993. Fine root growth and demographic responses to nutrient patches in four old-field plant species. Oecologia 95:61-64.

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Proliferation of roots in a nutrient patch can occur either as a result of an increase in root length (morphological response) or by a change in root birth or death rates (demographic responses). In this study we attempted to distinguish between these two mechanisms of response to nutrient patches and to compare the responses of four old-field plant species (two annuals, two perennials). For all four species combined, there were significant increases in root numbers and root length in fertilized patches. Root proliferation in fertilized patches was largely due to increased birth ( = branching) rates of new roots. However, there was also a significant increase in root death rates in the fertilized patches which reduced the magnitude of the increase in net root numbers. Plots for individual species suggested they differed in the magnitude and timing of root proliferation in fertilized patches due to differences in root birth and death rates. However, because of the limited sample size in this study, there was only a marginally significant difference among species in root birth rates, and no difference in death rates. Further studies are currently underway to better quantify species differences in the demographic mechanism, as well as magnitude, of response to nutrient patches and if this would affect the ability to exploit small-scale heterogeneity in soil resources.

DOI: 10.1007/BF00649507

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