Initial burst of root development with decreasing respiratory carbon cost in Fagus crenata Blume seedlings
As terrestrial plants are rooted in one place, their metabolism must be acclimatized to continuously changing environmental conditions. This process is influenced by different metabolic traits of plant organs during ontogeny. However, direct measurement of organ‐specific metabolic rates is particularly scarce, and little is known about their roles in whole‐plant metabolism. In this study, we investigated size scaling of respiration rate, fresh mass and surface area of leaves, stems and roots in 65 seedlings of Fagus crenata Blume (2 weeks to 16 months old). With the increase in plant mass, the proportion of roots in whole plants increased from 20.8 to 87.3% in fresh mass and from 12.8 to 95.0% in surface area, whereas there was only a 15.6 to 60.2% increase in respiration rate. As a result, the fresh‐mass‐specific and surface‐area‐specific respiration rates in the roots decreased by 85% and 90%, respectively, and these decreases were significantly size dependent. However, such a size‐dependent decrease was not observed for the surface‐area‐specific respiration rate in the leaves and stems. It is likely that this rapid root development is specific to the early growth stage after germination and would help plants acquire water and nutrients efficiently (i.e., at relatively low respiratory carbon costs). Overall, it is probable that the establishment of F. crenata forests and survival of F. crenata seedlings could be promoted by substantial root growth, with a reduction in respiratory carbon cost.