Do plants modulate biomass allocation in response to petroleum pollution?

Ming Nie, Qiang Yang, Li-Fen Jiang, Chang-Ming Fang, Jia-Kuan Chen, Bo Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Biomass allocation is an important plant trait that responds plastically to environmental heterogeneities. However, the effects on this trait of pollutants owing to human activities remain largely unknown. In this study, we investigated the response of biomass allocation of Phragmites australis to petroleum pollution by a (13)CO(2) pulse-labelling technique. Our data show that plant biomass significantly decreased under petroleum pollution, but the root-shoot ratio for both plant biomass and (13)C increased with increasing petroleum concentration, suggesting that plants could increase biomass allocation to roots in petroleum-polluted soil. Furthermore, assimilated (13)C was found to be significantly higher in soil, microbial biomass and soil respiration after soils were polluted by petroleum. These results suggested that the carbon released from roots is rapidly turned over by soil microbes under petroleum pollution. This study found that plants can modulate biomass allocation in response to petroleum pollution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-814
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number6
Early online date19 May 2010
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2010


  • biomass allocation
  • (13)CO(2) pulse-labelling
  • petroleum pollution
  • photosynthesis
  • Phragmites australis
  • oil-spills
  • soil
  • nitrogen
  • rhizodeposition
  • turnover


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