Influences of calcium availability and tree species on Ca isotope fractionation in soil and vegetation
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The calcium (Ca) isotope system is potentially of great use for understanding biogeochemical processes at multiple scales in forest ecosystems, yet remains largely unexplored for this purpose. In order to further our understanding of Ca behavior in forests, we examined two nearly adjacent hardwood-dominated catchments with differing soil Ca concentrations, developed from crystalline bedrock, to determine the variability of 44Ca/40Ca ratios (expressed as δ44Ca) within soil and vegetation pools. For both sugar maple and American beech, the Ca isotope compositions of the measured roots and calculated bulk trees were considerably lighter than those of soil pools at these sites, suggesting that the trees were able to preferentially take up light Ca at the root–soil interface. The Ca isotope compositions of three of four root samples were among the lightest values yet reported for terrestrial materials (δ44Ca ≤−3.95‰). Our results further indicate that Ca isotopes were fractionated along the transpiration streams of both tree species with roots having the least δ44Ca values and leaf litter the greatest. An approximately 2‰ difference in δ44Ca values between roots and leaf litter of both tree species suggests a persistent fractionation mechanism along the transpiration stream, likely related to Ca binding in wood tissue coupled with internal ion exchange. Finally, our data indicate that differing tree species demand for Ca and soil Ca concentrations together may influence Ca isotope distribution within the trees. Inter-catchment differences in Ca isotope distributions in soils and trees were minor, indicating that the results of our study may have broad transferability to studies of forest ecosystems in catchments developed on crystalline substrates elsewhere.