Plant and Soil

, Volume 312, Issue 1–2, pp 69–83 | Cite as

Root traits and taxonomic affiliation of nine herbaceous species grown in glasshouse conditions

  • Catherine Roumet
  • Françoise Lafont
  • Muhaymina Sari
  • Fernand Warembourg
  • Eric Garnier
Regular Article


This study examines whether root traits differed between three major plant families (Asteraceae, Fabaceae and Poaceae) and whether they are related to root respiration and exudation. Nine traits related to biomass allocation, root topology, morphology, chemical composition and mycorrhizal colonisation were examined for nine C3 herbaceous species grown in controlled conditions. Poaceae differed from Fabaceae for the whole set of root traits examined except mycorrhizal colonisation, while Asteraceae showed intermediate characteristics. As compared to Fabaceae, Poaceae allocated more biomass to roots; showed a more sparsely branched root system with a small average root diameter, a high root dry matter content and a low nitrogen concentration. Root respiration was weakly related to root mass ratio and root dry matter content; no significant relationship was found between root functions and root architecture or morphology. This study shows that plant classification based on taxonomic affiliation reflects differences in root system traits and functions. Whole root system traits do not allow strong predictions of root respiration and exudation, perhaps because these processes are more linked to fine root than to whole root system traits.


Functional groups Mycorrhization Rhizospheric processes Root respiration Root traits Taxonomic families 



We would like to thank the staff of the CEFE experimental field, for their help in the set-up of the experiment, and the staff of the ‘Plate-forme d’analyses chimiques du CEFE’ where 14C and elemental analyses were performed. Marie-Laure Navas is warmly thanked for her helpful suggestions on the manuscript, Olivier Gimenez for statistical advices and Jeffrey Clary for English revisions. This work was supported by the PNSE program of the French Research Council (CNRS, France) and by the European project VISTA (Vulnerability of Ecosystem Services to Land Use Change in Traditional Agricultural Landscapes). This is a publication from the GDR 2474 ‘Utiliterres’ (CNRS, France).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Roumet
    • 1
  • Françoise Lafont
    • 1
  • Muhaymina Sari
    • 2
  • Fernand Warembourg
    • 1
  • Eric Garnier
    • 1
  1. 1.CNRS, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et EvolutiveMontpellier Cedex 5France
  2. 2.Department de BiologieUniversité de SherbrookeSherbrookeCanada

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