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Definition of wood quality and structure as affected by elevated CO2/N

The influence of elevated [CO2] on the physiology and development of plants, including forest trees, have already been intensively studied. However, the effects of CO2 enrichment on the structure and quality of plants and carbon allocation to long- and short-term carbon pools in plants are not clear yet. How does elevated [CO2] affect the wood quality and carbon allocation to long- and short-term pools in the wood of trees?

This question is particularly important because forests contain more than 90% of the carbon of earth�s living organisms. Besides the ecological importance of forests, wood is also economically important for human beings. For instance, wood from forest trees provides structural materials and energy for human beings since a long time. Wood quality is also extremely important for pulp and paper industry because fibre properties, an important aspect of wood quality, affect the quality of final products. With respect to sustainable development, wood quality is also important for forest health because carbon-based secondary compounds, the biochemical aspects of wood quality, such as lignin, phenolics and tannins, affect the ability of forest trees to resist the attack of pathogen and insects. To date only few studies addressed wood quality in response to elevated [CO2], especially to FACE.

To address the above aspects, wood quality and structure of juvenile wood obtained from the EUROFACE site were analyzed by microscopic technique and image analysis. By employment of biochemical methods and allometric relationships, carbon allocation and carbon-based secondary compounds in the wood of poplar responding to FACE and N-fertilization were intensively studied. The implications of the results for forest carbon sequestration were discussed.

To characterise wood quality in response to elevated CO2 and N-fertilization, growth and wood anatomy of three poplar clones were investigated. In the three poplar genotypes, most of the anatomical traits showed no uniform response pattern to elevated CO2 or N-fertilization. In P. × euramericana, N-fertilization resulted in significant reductions in fiber lengths. In all three genotypes, N-fertilization caused significant decreases in cell wall thickness. In P. × euramericana and P. alba, elevated CO2 also caused decreases in wall thickness, but less pronounced than nitrogen. In P. nigra and P. × euramericana, elevated CO2 induced increases in vessel diameters. The combination of elevated CO2 and N-fertilization resulted in overall losses in cell wall area of 5 12% in all three clones suggesting that in future climate scenarios, negative effects on wood quality may be anticipated.

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