Plant diversity and drought: The role of deep roots

Magnus Lindh*, Lai Zhang, Daniel Falster, Oskar Franklin, Åke Brännströma

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    29 Citations (Scopus)


    Extreme temperatures and droughts in the wake of climate change potentially threaten plant diversity. A strategy that plants use to improve survival during seasonal drought is to establish deep roots, aptly named tap roots for their ability to tap into groundwater. Little is known, however, about the role of deep roots in maintaining plant diversity. Here, we extend an established model of plants canopies by Iwasa et al. (1985), in which plants of different heights compete for light, to allow strategic investments in an optional tap root. We investigate how emerging diversity varies with water table depth, soil water gradient and drought-induced mortality rate. Having a tap root enables plants to reach deep water, thus reducing mortality, but also carries a construction cost, thus inducing a tradeoff. We find (1) that taproots maintain plant diversity under increasing drought mortality, (2) that tap roots evolve when groundwater is accessible at low to intermediate depths, (3) no viable strategies at high drought mortality and deep water table, and (4) Red Queen evolutionary dynamics in mixed communities with and without tap root.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)85-93
    Number of pages9
    JournalEcological Modelling
    Issue numberC
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2014


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