Physiological girdling of pine trees via phloem chilling: proof of concept.

Plant, cell & environment

PubMedID: 17177881

Maier C, Sanchez F, Anderson P, Butnor J, Waring R, Linder S, Johnsen K. Physiological girdling of pine trees via phloem chilling: proof of concept. Plant Cell Environ. 2007;30(1):128-34.
Quantifying below-ground carbon (C) allocation is particularly difficult as methods usually disturb the root-mycorrhizal-soil continuum. We reduced C allocation below ground of loblolly pine trees by: (1) physically girdling trees and (2) physiologically girdling pine trees by chilling the phloem. Chilling reduced cambium temperatures by approximately 18 degrees C. Both methods rapidly reduced soil CO2 efflux, and after approximately 10 days decreased net photosynthesis (P(n)), the latter indicating feedback inhibition. Chilling decreased soil-soluble C, indicating that decreased soil CO2 efflux may have been mediated by a decrease in root C exudation that was rapidly respired by microbes. These effects were only observed in late summer/early autumn when above-ground growth was minimal, and not in the spring when above-ground growth was rapid. All of the effects were rapidly reversed when chilling was ceased. In fertilized plots, both chilling and physical girdling methods reduced soil CO2 efflux by approximately 8%. Physical girdling reduced soil CO2 efflux by 26% in non-fertilized plots. This work demonstrates that phloem chilling provides a non-destructive alternative to reducing the movement of recent photosynthate below the point of chilling to estimate C allocation below ground on large trees.