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Data from: The response of root traits to precipitation change of herbaceous species in temperate steppes

Citation

Zhou, Meng et al. (2019), Data from: The response of root traits to precipitation change of herbaceous species in temperate steppes, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.45m46kp

Abstract

1. Plasticity of root traits plays an important role in determining plant growth and survival under changing climate. Shift in precipitation is one of the most pertinent global change factors driving changes in structure and function of grasslands. However, few studies have focused on intra-specific variation of root traits in response to precipitation change under field conditions. 2. We conducted a 10-year simulated increased precipitation experiment in a temperate grassland and a 700-km regional scale transect along a precipitation gradients ranging from 144.23 to 412.29 mm in northern China. The morphological, chemical and anatomical traits of the first two orders roots were measured on 15 common herbaceous species in the manipulation experiment and two regionally common species (Leymus chinensis, Artemisia frigida) along the precipitation gradients. 3. We found that most of the root traits of the herbaceous species exhibited no significant responses to water addition. The two regionally common species adjusted their root traits at sites with the annual precipitation lower than certain value, i.e., 250 mm and 160 mm for L. chinensis and A. frigida, respectively. These results indicate that root traits of the herbaceous species exhibit little plasticity in response to precipitation change, and that the adjustment of root traits occurs when the range of annual precipitation exceeds a certain thresholds. 4. Root traits of L. chinensis and A. frigida varied differently both in manipulation experiment and along the precipitation gradients. Root traits of L. chinensis were relatively constant, while A. frigida adjusted their morphological root traits in response to water addition. Moreover, L. chinensis showed higher specific root length and area, and root N contents at sites with annual precipitation lower than c. 250 mm. In contrast, A. frigida displayed thicker roots with lower specific root length and area at sites with annual precipitation lower than c.160 mm. 5. Our results showed that root traits of herbaceous species in temperate grasslands exhibited little plasticity, and that different species have evolved diverse adaptive strategies in response to precipitation change. These novel findings may provide valuable information to predict responses of temperate grasslands to future climate change.

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