Nitrogen concentration and physical properties are key drivers of woody tissue respiration

Westerband, Andrea C, Wright, Ian J., Eller, Allyson S.D., Cernusak, Lucas, Reich, Peter B., Perez-Priego, Oscar, Chhajed, Shubham S., Hutley, Lindsay B., and Lehmann, Caroline E.R. (2022) Nitrogen concentration and physical properties are key drivers of woody tissue respiration. Annals of Botany, 129 (6). pp. 633-646.

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Background and Aims: Despite the critical role of woody tissues in determining net carbon exchange of terrestrial ecosystems, relatively little is known regarding the drivers of sapwood and bark respiration.

Methods: Using one of the most comprehensive wood respiration datasets to date (82 species from Australian rainforest, savanna and temperate forest), we quantified relationships between tissue respiration rates (Rd) measured in vitro (i.e. ‘respiration potential’) and physical properties of bark and sapwood, and nitrogen concentration (Nmass) of leaves, sapwood and bark.

Key Results: Across all sites, tissue density and thickness explained similar, and in some cases more, variation in bark and sapwood Rd than did Nmass. Higher density bark and sapwood tissues had lower Rd for a given Nmass than lower density tissues. Rd–Nmass slopes were less steep in thicker compared with thinner-barked species and less steep in sapwood than in bark. Including the interactive effects of Nmass, density and thickness significantly increased the explanatory power for bark and sapwood respiration in branches. Among these models, Nmass contributed more to explanatory power in trunks than in branches, and in sapwood than in bark. Our findings were largely consistent across sites, which varied in their climate, soils and dominant vegetation type, suggesting generality in the observed trait relationships. Compared with a global compilation of leaf, stem and root data, Australian species showed generally lower Rd and Nmass, and less steep Rd–Nmass relationships.

Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to report control of respiration–nitrogen relationships by physical properties of tissues, and one of few to report respiration–nitrogen relationships in bark and sapwood. Together, our findings indicate a potential path towards improving current estimates of autotrophic respiration by integrating variation across distinct plant tissues.

Item ID: 73772
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1095-8290
Keywords: Autotrophic respiration, CO2 efflux, metabolic nitrogen, physical properties, sapwood respiration, stem respiration, structural nitrogen, tissue density, tissue thickness, woody tissue respiration
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP120103284, ARC DP170103410, ARC DP0771427, ARC DP0344744
Date Deposited: 11 May 2022 08:14
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3108 Plant biology > 310806 Plant physiology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 100%
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