Evolution of root traits across major plant groups
Working with a collaborative group across China, Europe, and the United States, this project continues at the Morton Arboretum utilizing the extensive collection of woody plant species with notably rich coverage of diverse gymnosperm species that are currently underrepresented in previous global surveys. Driven by narrowing root diameters and an apparent reduction in plant reliance on symbiotic soil fungi (i.e. mycorrhizal fungi) among more recently derived plant groups, fine-root trait evolution within the angiosperm lineage has led to broad shifts in plant strategies for belowground resource acquisition. However, it is unclear whether this pattern is consistent across all plants and if the pattern of narrowing diameter and reduced fungal reliance is the same across different dominant types of mycorrhizal fungi. In this project, we utilize field sampling and laboratory analyses of fine-root samples to determine patterns of trait evolution among two dominant mycorrhizal types and across major plant families with emphasis on understudied gymnosperm families.