Wind is prevalent in almost every ecosystem on earth and has various effects on plants. Aboveground it affects seed dispersal, leaf traits and the mechanical stability of plants. Wind also influences belowground plant processes, particularly those related to root growth and biomass allocation (i.e. root:shoot ratio), but these responses are less well understood, particularly for non-woody plant species. Grassland ecosystems are frequently exposed to windy conditions and so the belowground responses of grassland plant species to different wind intensities is an area of current research interest.
In a new study published in AoBP, Werger et al. investigate the effects of wind intensity on fine root morphology in two grass and two legume forb species in a grassland in northeast Germany. In their field experiment, wind intensity affected the fine-root morphology and the outcome of plant-soil interactions of grassland plants. Increasing wind intensity resulted, for instance, in increased specific root length and surface area. Similarly, growth of grassland species on soils that either contained their own soil biota or soil biota of other species differed between wind intensities. These results suggest that aboveground environmental factors like wind induce changes in root morphology that impact plant-soil interactions. The authors conclude that linking wind-induced changes in root morphology to plant-soil feedback effects represents one step towards a closer understanding of plant-soil interactions under changing environmental conditions.
Johannes Heinze studied biology and ecology at the University of Potsdam where he also conducted his PhD in 2016. Johannes currently work as postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Biochemistry and Biology at the University of Potsdam. Since 2008, Johannes has been a member within the Biodiversity-Exploratories project in which he has worked as a student helper, degree candidate, PhD student and Postdoc.
Johannes is a plant ecologist interested in understanding the mechanisms and drivers that impact diversity in plant communities – with particular interest in plant-soil interactions. He has mostly worked in semi-natural grassland systems, specifically investigating the interactive effects of herbivory by insects and soil biota effects in driving plant performance and community composition. He is also interested in developing a deeper understanding of the role of root traits in plant-soil interactions.