Root architecture and allocation patterns of eight native tropical species with different successional status used in open-grown mixed plantations in Panama
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We investigated biomass allocation and root architecture of eight tropical species with different successional status, as classified from the literature, along a size gradient up to 5 m. We focused on belowground development, which has received less attention than aboveground traits. A discriminant analysis based upon a combination of allocational and architectural traits clearly distinguished functional types and classified species according to successional status at a 100% success rate. For a given plant diameter, the pioneer species presented similar root biomass compared to the non-pioneer ones but higher cumulative root length and a higher number of root apices. A detailed study on the root system of a sub-sample of three species showed that the most late-successional species (Tabebuia rosea) had longer root internodes and a higher proportion of root biomass allocated to the taproot compared to the other two species (Hura crepitans and Luehea seemannii). Most pioneer species showed a higher leaf area ratio due to a higher specific leaf area (SLA). We conclude that the functional differences between pioneer and non-pioneer tree species found in natural forests were maintained in open-grown plantation conditions.