Characterizing the changes in biopolymer composition in roots of photosynthetically divergent grasses exposed to future climates

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Vidya Suseela1, Nishanth Tharayil1 and Elise Pendall2, (1)Clemson University, Clemson, SC, United States, (2)University of Western Sydney, Penrith, NSW, Australia
A majority of carbon in soil is derived from plant roots, yet roots remain remarkably less explored. Root tissues are abundant in heteropolymers such as suberin, lignin and tannins which are energetically demanding to depolymerize, thus facilitating the accrual of carbon in soil. Most biopolymers are operationally/functionally defined and their function is regulated by the identity of monomers and the linkages connecting these monomers. The structural chemistry of these biopolymers could vary with the environmental conditions experienced during their formative stage thus altering the potential for soil carbon sequestration. We examined the biopolymer composition in the roots of a C3 (Hesperostipa comata) and a C4 (Bouteloua gracilis) grass species exposed to a factorial combination of warming and elevated CO2 at the Prairie Heating and CO2 Enrichment (PHACE) experiment, Wyoming, USA. The grass roots were subjected to a sequential solvent extraction and base hydrolysis to delineate various operational fractions within the polydisperse matrix. The extracted fractions were analyzed using various chromatography mass spectrometry platforms. Warming and elevated CO2 increased the total suberin content and the amount of ω-hydroxy acids in C4 grass species while in C3 species there was a trend of increasing concentration of α,ω-dioic acids in roots exposed to elevated CO2 compared to ambient CO2 treatment. Our results highlight the effect of warming and elevated CO2 on the chemical composition of heteropolymers in roots that may potentially alter root function and rate of decomposition leading to changes in soil carbon in a future warmer world.