Liming Shifts Chinese Fir’s Functional Traits from Conservative to Acquisitive

Release Time:2024-04-02 Big Small

A new study has revealed how trees can adjust their growth strategies to thrive in improved soil conditions. The research, published in the journal Environmental and Experimental Botany, focused on Chinese fir trees (Cunninghamia lanceolata), a commercially important species in Asia.

Trees, like all living things, need to adapt to their environment to survive. In challenging conditions, such as acidic soil, trees often adopt conservative strategies. These strategies prioritize staying alive over rapid growth. However, scientists are still learning how trees adjust their growth approach when the environment improves, like when acidic soil is treated with lime (liming).

Researchers investigated this question by studying Chinese fir trees, a fast-growing evergreen commonly used for timber. In a controlled experiment, they grew these tree saplings in pots with and without added lime. They then analyzed 22 different aspects of the trees, both above and below ground, to understand how the trees adjusted to the improved soil conditions.

The study found that Chinese fir saplings grown in limed soil displayed a shift towards what scientists call "acquisitive" traits. Specifically, by increasing total leaf area and decreasing leaf carbon content, the tree saplings optimized their resource allocation. This adjustment allowed Chinese fir to construct a larger photosynthetic surface area more economically. High Metabolic Rate Roots: The trees developed slender, highly metabolically active root systems. As a result, they efficiently absorbed soil nutrients. 

These trait adjustments facilitated rapid growth in Chinese fir when cultivated in limed soil. The researchers say that their findings provide "valuable insights" for enhancing the carbon sequestration capacity of Chinese fir plantations.



YUE Qian

Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences

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