Plant root-driven hydraulic redistribution, root nutrient uptake and carbon exudation interact with soil properties to generate rhizosphere resource hotspots that vary in space and time
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Hydraulic redistribution (HR) of soil water by plants occurs in seasonally dry ecosystems worldwide. During drought, water flows from deep moist soil, through plant roots, into dry (often litter-rich) upper soil layers. Using modeling, we explored how physical transport processes driven by transpiration and hydraulic redistribution interact with root physiology (nutrient uptake and carbon exudation) and soil properties (soil texture and cation exchange) to influence nitrogen and carbon concentrations in the rhizosphere. At the single root scale, we modeled a 10-cm radial soil domain, and simulated solute transport, soil cation exchange, and root exudation and nutrient uptake under two water flow patterns: daytime transpiration without nighttime HR, and daytime transpiration with nighttime HR. During HR, water efflux flushed solutes away from the root, diluting the concentrations of key nutrients like nitrate. The transport of cations by transpiration in the day and their accumulation near the root led to competitive desorption of ammonium from soil further from the root and generation of hotspots of ammonium availability at night. HR influenced the spatial and temporal patterns of these hotspots and their intensity. They were also influenced by soil properties of texture and cation exchange capacity. This dynamic resource landscape caused by diel cycling between transpiration and hydraulic redistribution presents a stage for greater complexity of microbial interactions. We are currently embedding a microbial community and small food web into this rhizosphere model in order to explore how organisms responsible for nutrient and soil carbon cycling respond to these fluctuating resource regimes.