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Plant Cell Environ. 2011 Mar;34(3):363-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3040.2010.02246.x. Epub 2010 Dec 22.

Seasonal dynamics in the stable carbon isotope composition δ¹³C from non-leafy branch, trunk and coarse root CO₂ efflux of adult deciduous (Fagus sylvatica) and evergreen (Picea abies) trees.

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Ecophysiology of Plants, Department of Ecology and Ecosystem Management, Life Science Center Weihenstephan, Technische Universität München, Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 2, 85354 Freising, Germany.


Respiration is a substantial driver of carbon (C) flux in forest ecosystems and stable C isotopes provide an excellent tool for its investigation. We studied seasonal dynamics in δ¹³C of CO₂ efflux (δ¹³C(E)) from non-leafy branches, upper and lower trunks and coarse roots of adult trees, comparing deciduous Fagus sylvatica (European beech) with evergreen Picea abies (Norway spruce). In both species, we observed strong and similar seasonal dynamics in the δ¹³C(E) of above-ground plant components, whereas δ¹³C(E) of coarse roots was rather stable. During summer, δ¹³C(E) of trunks was about -28.2‰ (Beech) and -26.8‰ (Spruce). During winter dormancy, δ¹³C(E) increased by 5.6-9.1‰. The observed dynamics are likely related to a switch from growth to starch accumulation during fall and remobilization of starch, low TCA cycle activity and accumulation of malate by PEPc during winter. The seasonal δ¹³C(E) pattern of branches of Beech and upper trunks of Spruce was less variable, probably because these organs were additionally supplied by winter photosynthesis. In view of our results and pervious studies, we conclude that the pronounced increases in δ¹³C(E) of trunks during the winter results from interrupted access to recent photosynthates.

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