Woody biomass production lags stem-girth increase by over one month in coniferous forests

Henri E. Cuny, Cyrille B.K. Rathgeber, David Frank, Patrick Fonti, Harri Makinen, Peter Prislan, Sergio Rossi, Edurne Martinez Del Castillo, Filipe Campelo, Hanuš Vavrčík, Jesus Julio Camarero, Marina V. Bryukhanova, Tuula Jyske, Jozica Gricar, Vladimir Gryc, Martin De Luis, Joana Vieira, Katarina Cufar, Alexander V. Kirdyanov, Walter OberhuberVaclav Treml, Jian Guo Huang, Xiaoxia Li, Irene Swidrak, Annie Deslauriers, Eryuan Liang, Pekka Nojd, Andreas Gruber, Cristina Nabais, Hubert Morin, Cornelia Krause, Gregory King, Meriem Fournier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

284 Scopus citations


Wood is the main terrestrial biotic reservoir for long-term carbon sequestration, and its formation in trees consumes around 15% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions each year. However, the seasonal dynamics of woody biomass production cannot be quantified from eddy covariance or satellite observations. As such, our understanding of this key carbon cycle component, and its sensitivity to climate, remains limited. Here, we present high-resolution cellular based measurements of wood formation dynamics in three coniferous forest sites in northeastern France, performed over a period of 3 years. We show that stem woody biomass production lags behind stem-girth increase by over 1 month. We also analyse more general phenological observations of xylem tissue formation in Northern Hemisphere forests and find similar time lags in boreal, temperate, subalpine and Mediterranean forests. These time lags question the extension of the equivalence between stem size increase and woody biomass production to intra-annual time scales. They also suggest that these two growth processes exhibit differential sensitivities to local environmental conditions. Indeed, in the well-watered French sites the seasonal dynamics of stem-girth increase matched the photoperiod cycle, whereas those of woody biomass production closely followed the seasonal course of temperature. We suggest that forecasted changes in the annual cycle of climatic factors may shift the phase timing of stem size increase and woody biomass production in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15160
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalNature plants
StatePublished - Oct 26 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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