Aspen Bibliography


Photosynthesis and carbon isotope discrimination in boreal forest ecosystems: a comparison of functional characteristics in plants from three mature forest types

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Journal of Geophysical Research D





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In this paper we compare measurements of photosynthesis and carbon isotope discrimination characteristics among plants from three mature boreal forest types (Black spruce, Jack pine, and aspen) in order to help explain variation in ecosystem-level gas exchange processes. Measurements were made at the southern study area (SSA) and northern study area (NSA) of the boreal forest in central Canada as part of the Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS). In both the NSA and the SSA there were significant differences in photosynthesis among the major tree species, with aspen having the highest CO2 assimilation rates and spruce the lowest. Within a species, photosynthetic rates in the SSA were approximately twice those measured in the NSA, and this was correlated with similar variations in stomatal conductance. Calculations of the ratio of leaf intercellular to ambient CO2 concentration (ci/ca) from leaf carbon isotope discrimination (Δ) values indicated a relatively low degree of stomatal limitation of photosynthesis, despite the low absolute values of stomatal conductance in these boreal tree species. Within each ecosystem, leaf Δ values were strongly correlated with life-form groups (trees, shrubs, forbs, and mosses), and these differences are maintained between years. Although we observed significant variation in the 13C content of tree rings at the old Jack pine site in the NSA during the past decade (indicating interannual variation in the degree of stomatal limitation), changes in summer precipitation and temperature accounted for only 44% of the isotopic variance. We scaled leaf-level processes to the ecosystem level through analyses of well-mixed canopy air. On average, all three forest types had similar ecosystem-level Δ values (average value ± standard deviation, 19.1‰±0.5‰), calculated from measurements of change in the concentration and carbon isotope ratio of atmospheric CO2 during a diurnal cycle within a forest canopy. However, there were seasonal changes in ecosystem discrimination for aspen forests, while the evergreen conifer forests exhibited relatively constant discrimination values throughout the active growing season.