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Tree Physiol. 2005 Jun;25(6):745-52.

Long-term trends in cellulose delta13 C and water-use efficiency of tropical Cedrela and Swietenia from Brazil.

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  • 1Institute of Botany, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU), Gregor Mendel-Str. 33, 1180 Vienna, Austria.


Elevated CO(2) concentrations ([CO(2)]) affect plant water relations and photosynthesis, and the increase in atmospheric [CO(2)] over the past 100-200 years has been related to changes in stomatal density and the carbon isotope ratio (delta(13)C) in tree rings and leaves from herbarium specimens. Because many tropical trees do not produce annual growth rings and their wood is therefore difficult to date, no trends in delta(13)C of tropical trees have been reported. Wood from Cedrela odorata L. (tropical cedar) and Swietenia macrophylla King (bigleaf mahogany), which do produce annual rings, was collected from a primary rain forest in Aripuanã, Brazil (10 degrees 09' S, 59 degrees 26' W). We measured wood cellulose delta(13)C in 10-year growth increments from 37 Cedrela trees (between 11 and 151 years old in 2001) and 16 Swietenia trees (48-126 years old). A comparison of delta(13)C in cellulose of trees from different decades and of trees of different cambial ages showed that the amount of delta(13)C was largely related to the decade the wood was produced in, and not, or only to a minor extent, to tree age. Cellulose delta(13)C decreased from -26.0 to -27.3 per thousand in Cedrela and from -25.7 to -27.1 per thousand in Swietenia, with the largest changes occurring during the past 50 years. Based on these data and the trends in atmospheric [CO(2)] and delta(13)CO(2), we calculated that the internal [CO(2)] increased from about 220 to 260 ppm and that intrinsic water-use efficiency increased by 34% in Cedrela and by 52% in Swietenia. This may have implications for the water cycle and may explain the trend toward increased tree growth and turnover observed in some tropical forests.

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