Plant and Soil

, Volume 381, Issue 1–2, pp 95–110 | Cite as

Distribution of cutin and suberin biomarkers under forest trees with different root systems

  • Sandra SpielvogelEmail author
  • Jörg Prietzel
  • Jana Leide
  • Michael Riedel
  • Julian Zemke
  • Ingrid Kögel-Knabner
Regular Article


Background and aims

Differences in chemical composition of root compounds and root systems among tree species may affect organic matter (OM) distribution, source and composition in forest soils. The objective of this study was to elucidate the contribution of species specific cutin and suberin biomarkers as proxies for shoot- and root-derived organic carbon (OC) to soil OM at different depths with increasing distance to the stems of four different tree species.


The contribution of cutin- and suberin-derived lipids to OM in a Cutanic Alisol was analyzed with increasing soil depth and distance to the stems of Fagus sylvatica L., Picea abies (L.) Karst., Quercus robur L. and Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco. Cutin and suberin monomers of plants and soils were analyzed by alkaline hydrolysis and subsequent gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.


The amount and distribution of suberin-derived lipids in soil clearly reflected the specific root system of the different tree species. The amount of cutin-derived lipids decreased strongly with soil depth, indicating that the input of leaf/needle material is restricted to the topsoil. In contrast to the suberin-derived lipids, the spatial pattern of cutin monomer contribution to soil OM did not depend on tree species.


Our results document the importance of tree species as a main factor controlling the composition and distribution of OM in forest soils. They reveal the impact of tree species on root-derived OM distribution and the necessity to distinguish among different zones when studying soil OM storage in forests.


Biomarkers Cutin Suberin Depth profile Subsoil 



We gratefully acknowledge the invaluable help of G. Albert during sample preparation, pretreatment, hydrolysis, derivatization and GC analyses. We also want to thank the two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Funding for this study was provided by the German Science Foundation (DFG; Ko 1035/34-1).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra Spielvogel
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jörg Prietzel
    • 1
  • Jana Leide
    • 3
  • Michael Riedel
    • 3
  • Julian Zemke
    • 2
  • Ingrid Kögel-Knabner
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Lehrstuhl für BodenkundeTechnische Universität MünchenFreisingGermany
  2. 2.Institut für Integrierte NaturwissenschaftenUniversität Koblenz-LandauKoblenzGermany
  3. 3.Julius-von-Sachs-Institut für Biowissenschaften, Lehrstuhl für Botanik IIUniversität WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  4. 4.Institute for Advanced StudyTechnische Universität MünchenGarchingGermany

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