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Forest belowground carbon transport: From rhizosphere fluxes to physiological drivers

Project description

New method to uncover belowground carbon flows

To facilitate predictions of carbon storage in changing climates and forests, scientists are looking at the trees. Tree carbon allocation dynamics are important, not only for tree eco-physiology, but also for global biogeochemistry. Despite extensive research in tree aboveground carbon fluxes, little is known about what is happening belowground. The EU-funded RHIZOCARBON project will investigate belowground carbon flow. It will study root respiration and growth and exudation. Computational models will be applied to identify the evolutionary requirements for the development of belowground carbon transfer. To trace belowground carbon transport, the project will apply a new methodology of continuous in vivo combined measurement of 13CO2 carbon allocation and flux rate.

Objective

Trees are unique in that responses at the organism level, being upscaled to forest canopies, bear large effects on the cycling and distribution of water and carbon in regional and global scales. Hence, tree carbon allocation dynamics are central not only to tree eco-physiology but also to global biogeochemistry. While tree aboveground carbon fluxes have been extensively studied, belowground fluxes, such as root respiration, growth and exudation have been mostly overlooked due to poor access to the root system. This project is set to address this knowledge disparity by answering key questions concerning belowground carbon flow.
In one line of research, we will study the trees' “in-house” management of carbon flow, inspired by our recently achieved first comprehensive tree carbon balance calculation, which indicates that carbon reserves serve as a buffer that accommodates large fluctuations in carbon supply and demand. This will be complemented by an exploration of the inter-tree carbon supply network of mycorrhizal fungi routes, an investigation prompted by our discovery that mature trees in a mixed forest transfer unprecedented amounts of carbon among each other via fungal networks. Computational models will be applied to identify the evolutionary requirements for the development of belowground carbon transfer in a mycorrhizal network.
We will dive into the highly complex soil system not in an artificial medium system – but in a mixed forest site, complemented by greenhouse experiments simulating forest tree communities. To trace below-ground carbon transport, we will apply our novel methodology of continuous, in vivo, combined measurement of 13CO2 carbon allocation and flux rate.
This novel ‘rhizosphere expedition’ will decipher the key belowground carbon transport processes, shedding light on the extent to which trees and fungi regulate them and facilitating predictions of carbon storage in changing climate and forests.

Host institution

WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE
Net EU contribution
€ 1 500 000,00
Address
HERZL STREET 234
7610001 Rehovot
Israel

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Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 1 500 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)