Carbon allocation into different fine-root classes of young Abies alba trees is affected more by phenology than by simulated browsing

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Abies alba (European silver fir) was used to investigate possible effects of simulated browsing on C allocation belowground by 13CO2 pulse-labelling at spring, summer or autumn, and by harvesting the trees at the same time point of the labelling or at a later season for biomass and for 13C-allocation into the fine-root system. Before budburst in spring, the leader shoots and 50% of all lateral shoots of half of the investigated 5-year old Abies alba saplings were clipped to simulate browsing. At harvest, different fine-root classes were separated, and starch as an important storage compartment was analysed for concentrations. The phenology had a strong effect on the allocation of the 13C-label from shoots to roots. In spring, shoots did not supply the fine-roots with high amounts of the 13C-label, because the fine-roots contained less than 1% of the applied 13C. In summer and autumn, however, shoots allocated relatively high amounts of the 13C-label to the fine roots. The incorporation of the 13C-label as structural C or as starch into the roots is strongly dependent on the root type and the root diameter. In newly formed fine roots, 3-5% of the applied 13C was incorporated, whereas 1-3% in the ≤0.5 mm root class and 1-1.5% in the >0.5-1.0 mm root class were recorded. Highest 13C-enrichment in the starch was recorded in the newly formed fine roots in autumn. The clipping treatment had a significant positive effect on the amount of allocated 13C-label to the fine roots after the spring labelling, with high relative 13C-contents observed in the ≤0.5 mm and the >0.5-1.0 mm fine-root classes of clipped trees. No effects of the clipping were observed after summer and autumn labelling in the 13C-allocation patterns. Overall, our data imply that the season of C assimilation and, thus, the phenology of trees is the main determinant of the C allocation from shoots to roots and is clearly more important than browsing.




Endrulat, T., Buchmann, N., & Brunner, I. B. (2016). Carbon allocation into different fine-root classes of young Abies alba trees is affected more by phenology than by simulated browsing. PLoS ONE, 11(4).

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