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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2007

Rapid mixing between old and new C pools in the canopy of mature forest trees

Keel SG, Siegwolf RTW, Jaggi M, Korner C


Stable C isotope signals in plant tissues became a key tool in explaining growth responses to the environment. The technique is based on the fundamental assumption that the isotopic composition of a given unit of tissue (e.g. a tree ring) reflects the specific C uptake conditions in the leaf at a given time. Beyond the methodological implications of any deviation from this assumption, it is of physiological interest whether new C is transferred directly from sources (a photosynthesizing leaf) to structural sinks (e.g. adjacent stem tissue), or inherently passes through existing (mobile) C pools, which may be of variable (older) age. Here, we explore the fate of C-13-labelled photosynthates in the crowns of a 30-35 m tall, mixed forest using a canopy crane. In all nine study species labelled C reached woody tissue within 2-9 h after labelling. Four months later, very small signals were left in branch wood of Tilia suggesting that low mixing of new, labelled C with old C had taken place. In contrast, signals in Fagus and Quercus had increased, indicating more intense mixing. This species-specific mixing of new with old C pools is likely to mask year- or season-specific linkages between tree ring formation and climate and has considerable implications for climate reconstruction using stable isotopes as proxies for past climatic conditions

Published in

Plant, Cell and Environment
2007, Volume: 30, number: 8, pages: 963-972

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    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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