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Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2012 Nov 15;26(21):2493-501. doi: 10.1002/rcm.6368.

Stable-isotope labeling and probing of recent photosynthates into respired CO2, soil microbes and soil mesofauna using a xylem and phloem stem-injection technique on Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis).

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Belowground Ecosystem Group, Department of Forest Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.



Here we report on the successful application of a novel stem-injection stable-isotope-labeling and probing technique in mature trees to trace the spatial and temporal distribution of rhizosphere carbon belowground.


Three 22-year-old Sitka spruce trees were injected with 6.66 g of (13)C-labeled aspartic acid. Over the succeeding 30 days, soil CO(2) efflux, phospholipid fatty-acid (PLFA) microbial biomarkers and soil invertebrates (mites, collembolans and enchytraeids) were analyzed along a 50 m transect from each tree to determine the temporal and spatial patterns in the translocation of recently fixed photosynthates belowground.


Soil δ(13)CO(2) values peaked 13-23 days after injection, up to 5 m from the base of the injected tree and was, on average, 3.5‰ enriched in (13)C relative to the baseline. Fungal PLFA biomarkers peaked 2-4 days after stem-injection, up to 20 m from the base of the injected tree and were (13)C-enriched by up to 50‰. Significant (13)C enrichment in mites and enchytraeids occurred 4-6 days after injection (by, on average, 1.5‰).


Stem injection of large trees with (13)C-enriched compounds is a successful tool to trace C-translocation belowground. In particular, the significant (13)C enrichment of CO(2) and enchytraeids near the base of the tree and the significant (13)C enrichment of PLFAs up to 20 m away indicate that mature Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) have the capacity to support soil communities over large distances.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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