Limited vertical CO2 transport in stems of mature boreal Pinus sylvestris trees
Tree Physiol 2020, 41(1):63-75

Tarvainen L, Wallin G, Linder S, Näsholm T, Oren R, Ottosson Löfvenius M, Räntfors M, Tor-Ngern P, Marshall JD

Several studies have suggested that CO2 transport in the transpiration stream can considerably bias estimates of root and stem respiration in ring-porous and diffuse-porous tree species. Whether this also happens in species with tracheid xylem anatomy and lower sap flow rates, such as conifers, is currently unclear. We infused 13C-labeled solution into the xylem near the base of two 90-year-old Pinus sylvestris trees. A custom-built gas exchange system and an online isotopic analyzer were used to sample the CO2 efflux and its isotopic composition continuously from four positions along the bole and one upper canopy shoot in each tree. Phloem and needle tissue 13C enrichment was also evaluated at these positions. Most of the 13C label was lost by diffusion within a few meters of the infusion point indicating rapid CO2 loss during vertical xylem transport. No 13C enrichment was detected in the upper bole needle tissues. Furthermore, mass balance calculations showed that c. 97% of the locally respired CO2 diffused radially to the atmosphere. Our results support the notion that xylem CO2 transport is of limited magnitude in conifers. This implies that the concerns that stem transport of CO2 derived from root respiration biases chamber-based estimates of forest carbon cycling may be unwarranted for mature conifer stands.

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