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Tree Physiol. 2004 May;24(5):571-8.

Estimating stem respiration in trees by a mass balance approach that accounts for internal and external fluxes of CO2.

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  • 1School of Forest Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


The respiration rate of a tree stem has commonly been estimated from measurements of CO2 efflux to the atmosphere. These estimates assume that all CO2 efflux originates from respiration of local tissues and that all CO2 produced by local tissues escapes to the atmosphere through the bark. However, dissolved CO2 can be transported in the xylem stream, and CO2 concentration ([CO2]) in xylem can be up to three orders of magnitude greater than that of the atmosphere, suggesting that measurements of CO2 efflux do not account for all CO2 produced by respiration. Here, we propose a new mass balance approach for estimating the respiration rate of tree stems that accounts for both external and internal fluxes of CO2. We demonstrate this approach using measurements of CO2 efflux, sap flux and internal [CO(2)] to calculate the rate of CO2 production of a segment of stem tissue in situ. At different times of the day, CO2 produced by respiration of stem tissues followed different flux pathways. During daylight hours when sap was flowing, a large proportion of respired CO2 was carried away in the xylem stream, whereas at night, most respiratory CO2 escaped to the atmosphere through the bark. Our calculations showed errors in efflux-based estimates of respiration of up to 76% compared with estimates that include both internal and external fluxes.

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