Stand-scale correspondence in empirical and simulated labile carbohydrates in loblolly pine
As investment into intensive forestry increases, the potential trade-offs between productivity and sustainability should be scrutinized. Because of their important role in internal carbon (C) budgets, labile C pools may provide a measure of the potential ability of trees and stands to respond to stress. We modified the process model BIOMASS to examine daily C budgets of midrotation nonfertilized and fertilized loblolly pine stands. We tested whether the absolute difference between daily simulated net canopy assimilation (GPP minus maintenance respiration) and our empirical estimates of production, or daily gross carbon balance, mimics the labile carbohydrate C pool. We compared this labile pool surrogate to independent, empirical analyses of total nonstructural (starch and soluble sugars) carbohydrates from an individual whole-tree analysis scaled to the stand level.
Of particular interest, the simulated daily gross C balance indicated periods of carbon deficit during the growing season that lasted from 1 to 40 days. Simulated daily net C balance was met from labile C storage during these periods. Fertilized plots had similar time-period trends as the control plots, but exhibited a twofold increase in C assimilation and use. Simulated and empirical estimates of the labile carbohydrate pools displayed similar seasonal trends, although their correspondence depended on the time of year. Simulations indicated a winter/early spring "recharge" period; concentrations peaked at ~ 50 and ~ 60 mg C g biomass-1 in control and fertilized plots, respectively, in 1995. The overall correlation between predicted and empirical estimates was low to moderate (r = 0.51). The best agreement was with the empirical data from April through June as concentrations declined; however, predicted minimum concentrations (15 and 5 mg C g biomass-1 in control and fertilized plots, respectively) were lower, and obtained earlier in the year than the empirical data (~ 20 mg C mg biomass-1. These analyses quantify the strong extent that loblolly pine exhibits a buffered capacity to balance the C budget when current photosynthesis occasionally cannot meet daily C requirements. Further development of our approach may lead to a tool for analyzing potential risks associated with intensive forest management.