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Dryad

Data for: Effects of nutrient heterogeneity on root foraging and plant growth at the individual and community level

Cite this dataset

Wang, Peng; Mou, Pu; Hu, Lingyan; Hu, Shuijin (2022). Data for: Effects of nutrient heterogeneity on root foraging and plant growth at the individual and community level [Dataset]. Dryad. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.3n5tb2rkm

Abstract

Plants can respond to heterogeneous nutrient distribution through selective root placement to enhance nutrient uptake. It is believed that nutrient heterogeneity can better promote plant growth than homogeneous nutrient distribution, but comprehensive analyses are relatively few. We meta-analyzed the data from 131 comparative studies and synthesized the effects of nutrient heterogeneity on root foraging and plant growth, and examined the roles of patch scale and contrast. Plant responses to nutrient heterogeneity was phylogenetically conserved, and the response in shoot biomass was more correlated with the response in root biomass than with root foraging precision. Root precision depended on competition status, and plants in interspecific competition had lower precision. Community-level responses to nutrient heterogeneity were more significant than individual-level responses. With increasing patch scale, root foraging precision declined, while overall shoot and root responses of individuals increased. Moderate patch contrast significantly increased root responses compared to low and high patch contrast. Our results indicate that plants optimize nutrient acquisition from heterogeneous patches mainly through increasing root growth rate and exploit nutrients more effectively at the community than individual level. Patch attribute mediation of nutrient heterogeneity effects on plants may help design fertilization practices to promote productivity and conserve biodiversity.