Soil Variation Important In Natural Plant Communities

hypothesized that plants would vary greatly in their ability to exploit rich soil patches. "In a potted plant study, we found that some species, such as sweetgum trees and pineweed, concentrated root growth within rich soil patches, while others, such as persimmon tree and horseweed, did not. More importantly, some species grew larger when the same amount of soil fertility was arranged in patches instead of spread evenly throughout the pot." Sweetgum tree and fireweed are examples of the plants with roots that seek out patches of nutrients.

However, unlike in other studies of root system behavior, few correlations among root system traits were found, Jones says, "which makes prediction of plant interactions more complex than originally thought."

Garden plots are now underway to confirm that the degree of soil heterogeneity can influence competitive outcomes in natural soil settings. Ultimately, the researchers hope to predict how and why soil patches change in time, and how such patchiness alters the course of plant succession.

In addition to the presentation by Jones, biology graduate student Juliet Einsmann will present a poster on her work with Jones, Mou, and Mitchell on the "Below ground foraging in 10 plant species." Forestry graduate student Andrew Lister will present a poster on his work with Mou, Jones and Mitchell on "Spatial patterns of soil resources in a 40-year-old South Carolina slash pine forest."

Contact for more information: Dr. Robert H. Jones, 540-231-9514 or rhjones@vt.edu. Learn more about Dr. Jones at http://art.biol.v.edu/Facultypages/Jones/lab.html.


Contact: Dr. Robert H. Jones
(540) 231-9514
Virginia Tech

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