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Carbon fluxes to the soil in a mature temperate forest assessed by C-13 isotope tracing

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Photosynthetic carbon uptake and respiratory C release from soil are major components of the global carbon balance. The use of C-13 depleted CO2 (delta(13)C = -30 mature deciduous forest permitted us to trace the carbon transfer from tree crowns to the rhizosphere of 100-120 years old trees. During the first season of CO2 enrichment the CO2 released from soil originated substantially from concurrent assimilation. The small contribution of recent carbon in fine roots suggests a much slower fine root turnover than is often assumed. C-13 abundance in soil air correlated best with temperature data taken from 4 to 10 days before air sampling time and is thus rapidly available for root and rhizosphere respiration. The spatial variability of delta(13)C in soil air showed relationships to above ground tree types such as conifers versus broad-leaved trees. Considering the complexity and strong overlap of roots from different individuals in a forest, this finding opens an exciting new possibility of associating respiration with different species. What might be seen as signal noise does in fact contain valuable information on the spatial heterogeneity of tree-soil interaction.

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