Aerial root nodules in the tropical legume,Pentaclethra macroloba


Symbiotic nitrogen fixation in angiosperms normally occurs in buried root nodules and is severely inhibited in flooded soils. A few plant species, however, respond to flooding by forming nodules on stems, or, in one case, submerged roots with aerenchyma. We report here the novel occurrence of aerial rhizobial nodules attached to adventitious roots of the legume,Pentaclethra macroloba, in a lowland tropical rainforest swamp in Costa Rica. Swamp sapdings (1–10 cm diameter) support an average 12 g nodules dry weight per plant on roots 2–300 cm above water, and nodules remain in aerial positions at least 6 months. Collections from four swamp plants maintained linear activity rates (3–14 μmoles C2H4/g nodule dry weight/hr) throughout incubations for 6 and 13 hrs; excised nodule activity in most legumes declines after 1–2 hrs. Preliminary study of the anatomy and physiology suggest aerial nodules possess unusual features associated with tolerance to swamp conditions. High host tree abundance and nodulation in the swamp compared to upland sites indicate the aerial root symbiosis may contribute more fixed nitrogen to the local ecosystem than the more typical buried root symbiosis.

DOI: 10.1007/BF00789927

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@article{Walter1989AerialRN, title={Aerial root nodules in the tropical legume,Pentaclethra macroloba}, author={Cynthia A. Walter and Amos Bien}, journal={Oecologia}, year={1989}, volume={80}, pages={27-31} }