, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 1633–1642 | Cite as

Does phosphorus deficiency induce formation of root cortical aerenchyma maintaining growth of Cunninghamia lanceolata?

  • Pengfei Wu
  • Huayan Lai
  • Mulualem Tigabu
  • Wenjing Wu
  • Pan Wang
  • Guangyu Wang
  • Xiangqing MaEmail author
Original Article


Key message

Phosphorous (P) deficiency induces root cortical aerenchyma (RCA) formation in Chinese fir seedlings with marked genotypic variation, and the adaptive role of RCA is mainly related to root P reduction.


Root cortical aerenchyma (RCA) formation in response to phosphorus (P) deficiency and its adaptive role are largely unexplored in trees. We hypothesized that RCA formation in response to P deficiency varies with its severity and genotype, and that P-stressed seedlings maintain similar seedling growth to non-stressed seedlings by reducing the P requirements of roots and metabolic cost of soil exploration. Seedlings of two half-sib families (nos. 25 and 36) of Cunninghamia lanceolata (Chinese fir) were grown in pots with three levels of P supply for 3 months. Significant differences in RCA formation in 40–45 mm root segments from the root tip were observed between families and P supply levels. Severe P deficiency induced more RCA formation in family no. 36 than in family no. 25, whereas moderate P deficiency induced RCA formation in family no. 36 only. Family no. 36 had significantly higher height increment, needle biomass, and P concentration in stems and needles, but lower root biomass and root P concentration, than family 25. A significantly negative relationship was found between RCA and root P concentration, increments in average root diameter, and root surface area, whereas significantly positive correlations were observed between some root morphological traits and biomass and P concentration in the organs of P-stressed seedlings of family 36. In conclusion, severe P deficiency induces formation of RCA in Chinese fir seedlings with marked genotypic variation, and the adaptive role of RCA formation during P deficiency is mainly related to the reduction of root P concentration.


Chinese fir Phosphorus stress Root morphology Root anatomical trait 



We thank Nailian Chen and Zhiyu Chen for their help in the laboratory and Robert Guy for reviewing the article. The RCA analyses were performed at the Key Laboratory of Bio-pesticide and Chemistry Biology, Ministry of Education, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, People’s Republic of China. The study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nn. U1405211 to XM and no. 31370531 to PW), International Science and Technology Cooperation Program of Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (KXB16008A to XM), and China Scholarship Council.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

468_2018_1739_MOESM1_ESM.doc (3.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 3161 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of ForestryFujian Agriculture and Forestry UniversityFuzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Faculty of ForestryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Southern Swedish Forest Research CentreSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesAlnarpSweden

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