Aboveground carbon and nutrient distributions are hardly associated with canopy position for trees in temperate forests on poor and acidified sandy soils

Vos, Marleen A.E.; Boer, Dieke de; Vries, Wim de; Ouden, Jan den; Sterck, Frank J.


High demands on forest for carbon storage and provision of timber and biofuel require precise and reliable estimates of the biomass, carbon and nutrient stocks in different tree compartments. Whether the fraction of biomass distributed in aboveground tree compartments and the carbon and nutrient concentrations varies systematically across trees in different canopy positions remains unclear despite its importance for understanding forest ecology. Here, we compared the distribution of biomass, carbon and nutrients from underlying carbon and nutrient concentrations between different aboveground tree compartments for 15 mature trees of European beech (Fagus sylvatica), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) with dominant, intermediate and suppressed canopy position. We show that carbon concentrations were relatively constant across tree compartments while nutrient concentrations increased from stem, bark, branches towards needles. Canopy position had only minor effects on carbon and nutrient concentrations and on the distribution of biomass, carbon and nutrients between aboveground tree components. Nutrient concentrations and stochiometric results confirm that the forests were affected by high N deposition and low availability of P and base cations. Our results imply that predictions from allometric scaling theory better apply to aboveground tree components than from functional equilibrium theory. Models aiming for estimating tree and forest biomass and carbon and nutrient stocks can apply equal biomass, carbon and nutrient stocks for trees independent of canopy position as a valid assumption but testing this assumption for a broader range of species and site conditions remains recommended.