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Journal Article

Dynamics of fine root carbon in Amazonian tropical ecosystems and the contribution of roots to soil respiration

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Trumbore, S. E., Da Costa, E. S., Nepstad, D. C., De Camargo, P. B., Martinelli, L., Ray, D., et al. (2006). Dynamics of fine root carbon in Amazonian tropical ecosystems and the contribution of roots to soil respiration. Global Change Biology, 12(2), 217-229. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2005.001063.x.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0027-C3CC-4
Radiocarbon (C-14) provides a measure of the mean age of carbon (C) in roots, or the time elapsed since the C making up root tissues was fixed from the atmosphere. Radiocarbon signatures of live and dead fine (< 2 mm diameter) roots in two mature Amazon tropical forests are consistent with average ages of 4-11 years (ranging from < 1 to > 40 years). Measurements of C-14 in the structural tissues of roots known to have grown during 2002 demonstrate that new roots are constructed from recent (< 2-year-old) photosynthetic products. High Delta C-14 values in live roots most likely indicate the mean lifetime of the root rather than the isotopic signature of inherited C or C taken up from the soil. Estimates of the mean residence time of C in forest fine roots (inventory divided by loss rate) are substantially shorter (1-3 years) than the age of standing fine root C stocks obtained from radiocarbon (4-11 years). By assuming positively skewed distributions for root ages, we can effectively decouple the mean age of C in live fine roots (measured using C-14) from the rate of C flow through the live root pool, and resolve these apparently disparate estimates of root C dynamics. Explaining the C-14 values in soil pore space CO2, in addition, requires that a portion of the decomposing roots be cycled through soil organic matter pools with decadal turnover time.