Plant Stems & Leaves Proportional to Roots


The mass of a plant's leaves and stems is proportionally scaled to that of its roots in a mathematically predictable way, regardless of species or habitat, say Cornell University and University of Arizona researchers in a report in Science.

In other words, biologists can now reasonably estimate how much biomass is underground just by looking at the stems and leaves above ground. Up to now, plant biologists could only theorize about the ways stem and leaf biomass relate to root biomass.

The researchers spent two years poring over data for a vast array of plants -- from weeds to bushes to trees -- to derive mass-proportional relations among major plant parts.

Their evidence now provides environmental researchers with clues to how much carbon is stored in plants below as well as above ground. "Global climate modelers now can reasonably estimate how much carbon is sequestered in plants on a worldwide basis," says Karl J. Niklas, a researcher.

Scientists found there were observable, universal patterns of biomass storage across all plant species in different habitats and that such patterns could be predicted.

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