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Keywords:

  • carbohydrates;
  • C-balance;
  • deciduous;
  • evergreen;
  • lipids;
  • starch;
  • sugars

ABSTRACT

The current carbon supply status of temperate forest trees was assessed by analysing the seasonal variation of non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) concentrations in leaves, branch wood and stem sapwood of 10 tree species (six deciduous broad-leafed, one deciduous conifer and three evergreen conifer trees) in a temperate forest that is approximately 100 years old. In addition, all woody tissue was analysed for lipids (acylglycerols). The major NSC fractions were starch, sucrose, glucose and fructose, with other carbohydrates (e.g. raffinose and stachyose) and sugar alcohols (cyclitols and sorbitol) playing only a minor quantitative role. The radial distribution of NSC within entire stem cores, assessed here for the first time in a direct interspecific comparison, revealed large differences in the size of the active sapwood fraction among the species, reflecting the specific wood anatomy (ring-porous versus diffuse-porous xylem). The mean minimum NSC concentrations in branch wood during the growing season was 55% of maximum, and even high NSC concentrations were maintained during times of extensive fruit production in masting Fagus sylvestris. The NSC in stem sapwood varied very little throughout the season (cross species mean never below 67% of maximum), and the small reductions observed were not significant for any of the investigated species. Although some species contained substantial quantities of lipids in woody tissues (‘fat trees’; Tilia, Pinus, Picea, Larix), the lipid pools did not vary significantly across the growing season in any species. On average, the carbon stores of deciduous trees would permit to replace the whole leave canopy four times. These data imply that there is not a lot of leeway for a further stimulation of growth by ongoing atmospheric CO2 enrichment. The classical view that deciduous trees rely more on C-reserves than evergreen trees, seems unwarranted or has lost its justification due to the greater than 30% increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the last 150 years.