Can isotopic fractionation during respiration explain the 13C-enriched sporocarps of ectomycorrhizal and saprotrophic fungi?


Author for correspondence:
Björn Boström
Tel:+46 19 301 120
Fax:+46 19 303 566


  • • The mechanism behind the 13C enrichment of fungi relative to plant materials is unclear and constrains the use of stable isotopes in studies of the carbon cycle in soils.
  • • Here, we examined whether isotopic fractionation during respiration contributes to this pattern by comparing δ13C signatures of respired CO2, sporocarps and their associated plant materials, from 16 species of ectomycorrhizal or saprotrophic fungi collected in a Norway spruce forest.
  • • The isotopic composition of respired CO2 and sporocarps was positively correlated. The differences in δ13C between CO2 and sporocarps were generally small, < ±1‰ in nine out of 16 species, and the average shift for all investigated species was 0.04‰. However, when fungal groups were analysed separately, three out of six species of ectomycorrhizal basidiomycetes respired 13C-enriched CO2 (up to 1.6‰), whereas three out of five species of polypores respired 13C-depleted CO2 (up to 1.7‰; P < 0.05). The CO2 and sporocarps were always 13C-enriched compared with wood, litter or roots.
  • • Loss of 13C-depleted CO2 may have enriched some species in 13C. However, that the CO2 was consistently 13C-enriched compared with plant materials implies that other processes must be found to explain the consistent 13C-enrichment of fungal biomass compared with plant materials.