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The variation in fine root respiration with root age provides insight into root adaptation to climate warming, but the mechanism is poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the respiratory response of fine roots (<1 mm and 1-2 mm) of different ages (2-, 4- and 6-month old) of Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata (Lamb.)) seedlings to soil warming (4 °C above the control using cable heating). Fine roots were excised to measure the specific respiration rate at a reference temperature of 20 °C (SRR20), and root morphological and chemical traits were measured. Soil warming significantly increased SRR20 by 40% compared with the control, potentially indicating limited acclimation on a short time scale (6 months). However, soil warming increased SRR20 significantly in 2-month-old roots (by 72%) compared with 4- and 6-month-old roots, leading to a steeper decline in SRR20 with root age. This result suggests possible increased nutrient uptake efficiency in young fine roots under warmer temperatures. Soil warming significantly increased specific root length (SRL) but not root tissue nitrogen concentration (RTN). The variation in SRR20 between warming treatments, but not across root ages, was predicted by SRL and RTN individually or together. Our findings conclusively indicate that soil warming increased the respiration cost of young fine roots, which was predicted by adjusting for SRL and RTN, indicating that Chinese fir may adopt a faster fine root turnover strategy to enhance nutrient uptake and soil exploitation under warmer temperatures. Future studies should simultaneously investigate age-related root respiration and nutrient uptake in warming experiments to better understand the effects of warming on root metabolic activity. © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


Xiaohong Wang, Chensen Xu, Decheng Xiong, Xiaodong Yao, Tingting Chen, Qi Jiang, Linqiao Jia, Ailian Fan, Guangshui Chen. Root age-related response of fine root respiration of Chinese fir seedlings to soil warming. Tree physiology. 2022 Jun 09;42(6):1177-1187

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PMID: 35043963

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