For long-lived organisms, investment in insurance strategies such as reserve energy storage can enable resilience to resource deficits, stress or catastrophic disturbance. Recent fire in California damaged coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) groves, consuming all foliage on some of the tallest and oldest trees on Earth. Burned trees recovered through resprouting from roots, trunk and branches, necessarily supported by nonstructural carbon reserves. Nonstructural carbon reserves can be many years old, but direct use of old carbon has rarely been documented and never in such large, old trees. We found some sprouts contained the oldest carbon ever observed to be remobilized for growth. For certain trees, simulations estimate up to half of sprout carbon was acquired in photosynthesis more than 57 years prior, and direct observations in sapwood show trees can access reserves at least as old. Sprouts also emerged from ancient buds—dormant under bark for centuries. For organisms with millennial lifespans, traits enabling survival of infrequent but catastrophic events may represent an important energy sink. Remobilization of decades-old photosynthate after disturbance demonstrates substantial amounts of nonstructural carbon within ancient trees cycles on slow, multidecadal timescales.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science