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Tree Physiol. 2009 Jun;29(6):777-88. doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpp013. Epub 2009 Mar 12.

Leaf and twig delta13C during growth in relation to biochemical composition and respired CO2.

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Université Paris XI, Laboratoire d'Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, UPRESA no. 8079, Bâtiment 362, F-91405 Orsay cedex, France.


In deciduous trees, the delta(13)C values of leaves are known to diverge during growth from those of woody organs. The main purpose of this study is to determine whether the divergence in delta(13)C between leaves and current-year twigs of Fagus sylvatica (L.) is influenced by changes (i) in the relative contents of organic matter fractions and (ii) in the delta(13)C of respired CO(2). The delta(13)C values of bulk matter, extractive-free matter, lignin, holocellulose, starch, soluble sugars, water-soluble fraction and respired CO(2), as well as their relative contents in bulk matter were determined. The delta(13)C values of biochemical fractions and respired CO(2) showed very similar temporal variations for both leaves and twigs. Variations in bulk matter delta(13)C during growth were, therefore, poorly explained by changes in biochemical composition or in respiratory fractionation and were attributed to the transition from (13)C-enriched reserves (mainly starch) to (13)C-depleted new photoassimilates. The divergence between leaves and twigs was related to higher values of soluble sugar delta(13)C in twigs. However, the difference between lignin and holocellulose delta(13)C varied during growth. This phenomenon was attributed to the delay between holocellulose and lignin deposition. These results may have implications for analysis of organic matter delta(13)C in trees and forest ecosystems.

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