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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Volume 8, issue 10
Biogeosciences, 8, 2833–2846, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-8-2833-2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Stable isotopes and biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial...

Biogeosciences, 8, 2833–2846, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-8-2833-2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 04 Oct 2011

Research article | 04 Oct 2011

Short-term natural δ13C and δ18O variations in pools and fluxes in a beech forest: the transfer of isotopic signal from recent photosynthates to soil respired CO2

O. Gavrichkova1, S. Proietti1, S. Moscatello1, S. Portarena1, A. Battistelli1, G. Matteucci1,2, and E. Brugnoli1 O. Gavrichkova et al.
  • 1Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Biologia Agroambientale e Forestale, 05010, Porano (TR), Italy
  • 2Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto per i Sistemi Agricoli e Forestali del Mediterraneo, 87036, Rende (CS), Italy

Abstract. The fate of photosynthetic products within the plant-soil continuum determines how long the reduced carbon resides within the ecosystem and when it returns back to the atmosphere in the form of respiratory CO2. We have tested the possibility of measuring natural variation in δ13C and δ18O to disentangle the potential times needed to transfer carbohydrates produced by photosynthesis down to trunk, roots and, in general, to belowground up to its further release in the form of soil respiration into the atmosphere in a beech (Fagus sylvatica) forest. We have measured the variation in stable carbon and oxygen isotope compositions in plant material and in soil respired CO2 every three hours for three consecutive days. Possible steps and different signs of post-photosynthetic fractionation during carbon translocation were also identified. A 12 h-periodicity was observed for variation in δ13C in soluble sugars in the top crown leaves and it can be explained by starch day/night dynamics in synthesis and breakdown and by stomatal limitations under elevated vapour pressure deficits. Photosynthetic products were transported down the trunk and mixed with older carbon pools, therefore causing the dampening of the δ13C signal variation. The strongest periodicity of 24 h was found in δ13C in soil respiration indicating changes in root contribution to the total CO2 efflux. Other non-biological causes like diffusion fractionation and advection induced by gas withdrawn from the measurement chamber complicate data interpretation on this step of C transfer path. Nevertheless, it was possible to identify the speed of carbohydrates' translocation from the point of assimilation to the trunk breast height because leaf-imprinted enrichment of δ18O in soluble sugars was less modified along the downward transport and was well related to environmental parameters potentially linked to stomatal conductance. The speed of carbohydrates translocation from the site of assimilation to the trunk at breast height was estimated to be in the range of 0.3–0.4 m h−1.

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