• autotrophic respiration;
  • branch respiration;
  • canopy structure;
  • carbon balance;
  • plant functional group;
  • seasonality;
  • slope;
  • soil phosphorus;
  • tropical wet forest;
  • woody tissue respiration


The balance between photosynthesis and plant respiration in tropical forests may substantially affect the global carbon cycle. Woody tissue CO2 efflux is a major component of total plant respiration, but estimates of ecosystem-scale rates are uncertain because of poor sampling in the upper canopy and across landscapes. To overcome these problems, we used a portable scaffolding tower to measure woody tissue CO2 efflux from ground level to the canopy top across a range of sites of varying slope and soil phosphorus content in a primary tropical rain forest in Costa Rica. The objectives of this study were to: (1) determine whether to use surface area, volume, or biomass for modeling and extrapolating wood CO2 efflux, (2) determine if wood CO2 efflux varied seasonally, (3) identify if wood CO2 efflux varied by functional group, height in canopy, soil fertility, or slope, and (4) extrapolate wood CO2 efflux to the forest. CO2 efflux from small diameter woody tissue (<10 cm) was related to surface area, while CO2 efflux from stems >10 cm was related to both surface area and volume. Wood CO2 efflux showed no evidence of seasonality over 2 years. CO2 efflux per unit wood surface area at 25° (FA) was highest for the N-fixing dominant tree species Pentaclethra macroloba, followed by other tree species, lianas, then palms. Small diameter FA increased steeply with increasing height, and large diameter FA increased with diameter. Soil phosphorus and slope had slight, but complex effects on FA. Wood CO2 efflux per unit ground area was 1.34±0.36 μmol m−2 s−1, or 508±135 g C m−2 yr−1. Small diameter wood, only 15% of total woody biomass, accounted for 70% of total woody tissue CO2 efflux from the forest; while lianas, only 3% of total woody biomass, contributed one-fourth of the total wood CO2 efflux.