How plants compete for underground real estate affects climate change and food production

Liana Wait, graduate student, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

How do plant roots store carbon? Princeton researchers found that the energy a plant devotes to its roots depends on proximity to other plants: when close together, plants heavily invest in their root systems to compete for finite underground resources; if far apart, they invest less. As about a third of the world's vegetation biomass (and carbon) is belowground, this model provides a valuable tool to predict root proliferation in global earth-system models.