Plant and Soil

, Volume 424, Issue 1–2, pp 289–302 | Cite as

Species and root traits impact macroaggregation in the rhizospheric soil of a Mediterranean common garden experiment

  • Vincent Poirier
  • Catherine Roumet
  • Denis A. Angers
  • Alison D. Munson
Regular Article


Background and aims

We evaluated the influence of plant species and life forms on soil aggregate distribution among size-classes, total macroaggregate mass and aggregate mean weight diameter (MWD), and examined how specific root traits were related to these aggregation variables.


We analyzed the soil attached to the roots (i.e., rhizospheric soil) under 13 Mediterranean species grown in monocultures in a common garden experiment for four years, and compared it to a bare soil. The mass distribution of aggregates in six size-classes and aggregate MWD were calculated, both on a rhizospheric soil and root biomass basis.


Compared to bare soil, macroaggregate mass increased by an average of 13% in the presence of plants, with a strong effect of species and life forms (both P < 0.0001); some species such as Sanguisorba minor showing increases of up to ~40%. Although the soil under graminoids had a greater macroaggregate mass, their MWD was lower than under non-woody dicots. Large (2000–1000 μm) and intermediate (1000–500 μm) macroaggregate mass increased with root mass and length density and decreased with root lignin concentration, while very large macroaggregate (6000–2000 μm) mass and the MWD increased with root soluble compound concentration.


Species and life forms differently influenced the distribution of macroaggregates among size-classes and aggregate MWD. Easily-decomposable roots with traits related to resource acquisition (i.e., high fine root length, high water-soluble compound concentration) are more favorable for the development of water-stable macroaggregates than roots traits related to resource conservation (high lignin concentration, thick roots).


Soil aggregate stability Macroaggregation Plant species Plant life forms Root traits Rhizospheric soil 



The authors would like to thank the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies for financial support through a postdoctoral fellowship awarded to Vincent Poirier, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for a Discovery grant awarded to Alison D. Munson., the Groupement de Recherche International “Dynamique de la biodiversité et traits d’histoire de vie” (GDRI-n°BFC 44745, CNRS, France) and the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (project O2LA, ANR-09-STRA-09) for financial support through the experiment. Thanks are due to the staff of the Plateforme d’Analyses Chimiques en Ecologie (PACE) and of the CEFE experimental field (technical facilities of the Labex Centre Méditerranean de l’Environnement et de la Biodiversité, CEMEB). We are also thankful to Étienne Laliberté, Claire Chenu and Grégoire Freschet for helpful comments and discussions.

Supplementary material

11104_2017_3407_MOESM1_ESM.docx (27 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 28 kb)
11104_2017_3407_MOESM2_ESM.docx (38 kb)
Table S1 (DOCX 37 kb)
11104_2017_3407_MOESM3_ESM.docx (33 kb)
Table S2 (DOCX 32 kb)
11104_2017_3407_Fig4_ESM.gif (422 kb)
Fig. S1.

Mass distribution of rhizospheric soil among aggregate size classes expressed per unit soil mass for bare soil, 13 species and life forms. a) Very large macroaggregates (VLMsoil), b) Large macroaggregates (LMsoil), c) Intermediate macroaggregates (IMsoil), d) Small macroaggregates (SMsoil), e) Microaggregates (Misoil) and f) Fine fraction (Finesoil). See Table 1 for species abbreviations. * The mass distribution of aggregates in the bulk soil is given since no plants were present in the bare soil. (GIF 422 kb)

11104_2017_3407_MOESM4_ESM.tif (3.6 mb)
High resolution image (TIFF 3672 kb)
11104_2017_3407_Fig5_ESM.gif (407 kb)
Fig. S2.

Mass distribution of rhizospheric soil among aggregate size classes expressed per unit belowground biomass to depth of 0-10 cm (BB) for bare soil, 13 species and life forms. a) Very large macroaggregates (VLMBB), b) Large macroaggregates (LMBB), c) Intermediate macroaggregates (IMBB), d) Small macroaggregates (SM BB), e) Microaggregates (MiBB) and f) Fine fraction (FineBB). See Table 1 for species abbreviations. (GIF 407 kb)

11104_2017_3407_MOESM5_ESM.tif (3 mb)
High resolution image (TIFF 3100 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vincent Poirier
    • 1
    • 2
  • Catherine Roumet
    • 3
  • Denis A. Angers
    • 4
  • Alison D. Munson
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Forest Research, Département des sciences du bois et de la forêt, Faculté de foresterie, de géographie et de géomatiqueUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Unité de recherche et de développement en agroalimentaire de l’Abitibi-TémiscamingueUniversité du Québec en Abitibi-TémiscamingueNotre-Dame-du-NordCanada
  3. 3.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et EvolutiveUMR 5175, CNRS - Université de Montpellier - Université Paul Valéry Montpellier - EPHEMontpellier Cedex 5France
  4. 4.Quebec Research and Development CentreAgriculture and Agri-Food CanadaQuébecCanada

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