, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 187–198 | Cite as

A free-air system for long-term stable carbon isotope labeling of adult forest trees

  • Thorsten E. E. GramsEmail author
  • Herbert Werner
  • Daniel Kuptz
  • Wilma Ritter
  • Frank Fleischmann
  • Christian P. Andersen
  • Rainer Matyssek
Original Paper


Stable carbon (C) isotopes, in particular employed in labeling experiments, are an ideal tool to broaden our understanding of C dynamics in trees and forest ecosystems. Here, we present a free-air exposure system, named isoFACE, designed for long-term stable C isotope labeling in the canopy of 25 m tall forest trees. Labeling of canopy air was achieved by continuous release of CO2 with a δ13C of −46.9‰. To this end, micro-porous tubes were suspended at c. 1 m distance vertically through the canopy, minimizing CO2 gradients from the exterior to the interior and allowing for C labeling exposure during periods of low wind speed. Target for CO2 concentration ([CO2]) increase was ambient +100 μmol mol−1. Canopy [CO2] stayed within 10% of the target during more than 57% of the time and resulted in a drop of δ13C in canopy air by 7.8‰. After 19 labeling days about 50% of C in phloem sugars and stem CO2 efflux were turned over and 20–30% in coarse root CO2 efflux and soil CO2. The isoFACE system successfully altered δ13C of canopy air for studying turn-over of C pools in forest trees and soils, highlighting their slow turn-over rates.


Canopy CO2 concentrations European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) Free-air carbon isotope labeling infrastructure (isoFACE) Soil respired CO2 Stable carbon isotope (δ13C) Stem CO2 efflux (respiration) 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the help of T. Feuerbach, M. Goisser and Dr. C. Heerdt during experimentation and sample analyses. J. Heckmair, P. Kuba, H. Lohner and I. Süß are thanked for their skilful assistance. The investigation was funded through SFB 607 “Growth and Parasite Defense—Competition for Resources in Economic Plants from Agronomy and Forestry, Projects A6, B2 and B5” by the “Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft” (DFG). The information in this document has been subjected to EPA peer and administrative review, and it has been approved for publication as an EPA document. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thorsten E. E. Grams
    • 1
    Email author
  • Herbert Werner
    • 2
  • Daniel Kuptz
    • 1
  • Wilma Ritter
    • 1
  • Frank Fleischmann
    • 3
  • Christian P. Andersen
    • 4
  • Rainer Matyssek
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecophysiology of Plants, Department of Ecology and Ecosystem ManagementTechnische Universität MünchenFreisingGermany
  2. 2.Ecoclimatology, Department of Ecology and Ecosystem ManagementTechnische Universität MünchenFreisingGermany
  3. 3.Pathology of Woody Plants, Department of Ecology and Ecosystem ManagementTechnische Universität MünchenFreisingGermany
  4. 4.Western Ecology DivisionUS Environmental Protection AgencyCorvallisUSA

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