Abstract

Soil ecosystems support a plethora of intertwined biophysical and biochemical processes. Soil structure plays a central role in the formation and maintenance of soil biological activity by providing a diversified habitat for soil organisms and determining the movement and transport of the resources on which they rely. At the same time, the formation and preservation of soil structure and fertility is also strongly linked to soil biological activity through feedback loops. In most soil ecosystems, soil biological activity and associated processes are concentrated in the soil located around living plant roots and influenced by root activity, an environment known as the rhizosphere. Consequently, among the wide array of soil life forms, plants play a dominant role in the regulation of many soil processes. In this paper, we illustrate the functional complexity of soil ecosystems using specific examples of root–soil interactions and associated processes. Through examples taken from the literature, we examine the origins and variations in soil physical, chemical, and biological properties and their impact on root growth. Next, we consider how the response of root systems to their environment affects resource acquisition by plants. Finally, we describe how the concept of root functional architecture can improve the integration of research advances from fields operating as independent disciplines and improve our understanding of soil ecosystems.

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