Journal Article

Roles of soil chemistry and water availability in site-related δ<sup>13</sup>C variations in French beech forests

A. Weitner, J. L. Dupouey, Y. Lefèvre, N. Bréda, V. Badeau, A. Ferhi, A. Duquesnay and A. Thimonier

in Tree Physiology

Volume 27, issue 7, pages 1043-1051
Published in print July 2007 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online July 2007 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI:
Roles of soil chemistry and water availability in site-related δ13C variations in French beech forests

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The carbon isotopic composition (δ13C) of wood and leaf cellulose of beech trees (Fagus sylvatica L.) was studied at 80 sites in northeastern France. We sampled sites with contrasting water balance, depending on soil type and precipitation. We tested the hypothesis that inter-site variations in plant δ13C reflect the spatial distribution of soil water availability, and we assessed whether δ13C could be used as a bioindicator of soil water availability. Patterns of variation in δ13C were compared with estimates of monthly water balance and with other soil characteristics. Between-site variability in δ13C was high (2.9‰ range in wood cellulose, 2.1‰ in leaf cellulose), but variation in water availability appeared to be only a minor factor contributing to this variation in δ13C. Unexpectedly, spatial variations in wood and leaf cellulose δ13C were significantly and positively related to soil fertility expressed by soil pH (r = 0.42 and 0.43, respectively) and cation content. On average, trees growing on acidic soils displayed 0.5‰ lower δ13C in both wood and leaf material than trees growing on neutral or calcareous soils. Our initial hypothesis of a strong negative relationship between δ13C and site water availability was not confirmed. In the study zone, neither wood nor leaf δ13C appeared to be a reliable bioindicator of spatial variations in water availability. Possible causes for the lack of a relationship are discussed. Our findings confirm, under natural conditions, the strong effect of soil fertility on water-use efficiency previously observed in experiments. This effect needs to be considered in isotopic studies involving different sites.

Keywords: drought; Fagus sylvatica; inter-site variability; soil acidity; water-use efficiency

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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