Intra-annual dynamics of non-structural carbohydrates in the cambium of mature conifer trees reflects radial growth demands

Sonia Simard, Alessio Giovannelli, Kerstin Treydte, Maria Laura Traversi, Gregory M. King, David Frank, Patrick Fonti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


The presence of soluble carbohydrates in the cambial zone, either from sugars recently produced during photosynthesis or from starch remobilized from storage organs, is necessary for radial tree growth. However, considerable uncertainties on carbohydrate dynamics and the consequences on tree productivity exist. This study aims to better understand the variation in different carbon pools at intra-annual resolution by quantifying how cambial zone sugar and starch concentrations fluctuate over the season and in relation to cambial phenology. A comparison between two physiologically different species growing at the same site, i.e., the evergreen Picea abies Karst. and the deciduous Larix decidua Mill., and between L. decidua from two contrasting elevations, is presented to identify mechanisms of growth limitation. Results indicate that the annual cycle of sugar concentration within the cambial zone is coupled to the process of wood formation. The highest sugar concentration is observed when the number of cells in secondary wall formation and lignification stages is at a maximum, subsequent to most radial growth. Starch disappears in winter, while other freeze-resistant non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs) increase. Slight differences in NSC concentration between species are consistent with the differing climate sensitivity of the evergreen and deciduous species investigated. The general absence of differences between elevations suggests that the cambial activity of trees growing at the treeline was not limited by the availability of carbohydrates at the cambial zone but instead by environmental controls on the growing season duration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-923
Number of pages11
JournalTree Physiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Larix decidua
  • Picea abies
  • cambium
  • intra-annual analysis
  • non-structural carbohydrates (NSC)
  • phenology
  • tree-ring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Intra-annual dynamics of non-structural carbohydrates in the cambium of mature conifer trees reflects radial growth demands'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this