Fate of carbon in upland grassland subjected to liming using in situ (CO2)-C-13 pulse-labelling

Bente Foereid, Lorna A. Dawson, David Johnson, J. Ignacio Rangel-Castro

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Knowledge of the fate of plant assimilate is fundamental to our understanding of the terrestrial carbon cycle, particularly if we are to predict the effects of changes in climate and land management practices on agroecosystems. Pulse-labelling experiments have revealed that some of the carbon fixed by plants is rapidly allocated below-ground and released back into the atmosphere in respiration. However, little is known about the fate of plant assimilate, not accounted for in soil respiration, in the longer term and how current management practices such as liming may affect this. In southern Scotland, UK, limed and unlimed acid grassland plots were pulse-labelled with 13CO2 and the turnover of 13C was studied one and two years after labelling. In this study the amount of labelled carbon remaining in shoot, root, and bulk soil pools, and how this differed between limed and unlimed plots was investigated. The results indicated that plant-root turnover was faster, and plants invested less nitrogen in the roots in the limed plots than in the unlimed plots. More 13C remained in the soil in the unlimed treatment compared to the limed treatment, but the main difference was found in the particulate organic matter, which turned over relatively quickly. The label was still above natural abundance one and two years after labelling in many cases. In addition, the results demonstrate that a 13CO2 pulse-label administered for only a few hours can be a useful approach for investigating turnover of carbon several years later.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)301-311
    JournalPlant and Soil
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006


    • grassland
    • carbon turnover
    • liming pH
    • C-13 label
    • soil fractions
    • Scotland


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