Fruit production in three masting tree species does not rely on stored carbon reserves

Hoch, Günter; Siegwolf, Rolf T. W.; Keel, Sonja Gisela Yin; Körner, Christian; Han, Qingmin (2013). Fruit production in three masting tree species does not rely on stored carbon reserves. Oecologia, 171(3), pp. 653-662. Springer 10.1007/s00442-012-2579-2

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Fruiting is typically considered to massively burden the seasonal carbon budget of trees. The cost of reproduction has therefore been suggested as a proximate factor explaining observed mast-fruiting patterns. Here, we used a large-scale, continuous 13C labeling of mature, deciduous trees in a temperate Swiss forest to investigate to what extent fruit formation in three species with masting reproduction behavior (Carpinus betulus, Fagus sylvatica, Quercus petraea) relies on the import of stored carbon reserves. Using a free-air CO2 enrichment system, we exposed trees to 13C-depleted CO2 during 8 consecutive years. By the end of this experiment, carbon reserve pools had significantly lower δ13C values compared to control trees. δ13C analysis of new biomass during the first season after termination of the CO2 enrichment allowed us to distinguish the sources of built-in carbon (old carbon reserves vs. current assimilates). Flowers and expanding leaves carried a significant 13C label from old carbon stores. In contrast, fruits and vegetative infructescence tissues were exclusively produced from current, unlabeled photoassimilates in all three species, including F. sylvatica, which had a strong masting season. Analyses of δ13C in purified starch from xylem of fruit-bearing shoots revealed a complete turn-over of starch during the season, likely due to its usage for bud break. This study is the first to directly demonstrate that fruiting is independent from old carbon reserves in masting trees, with significant implications for mechanistic models that explain mast seeding.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Keel, Sonja Gisela Yin


500 Science > 530 Physics
500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)








Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

25 Sep 2014 12:53

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:32

Publisher DOI:





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