Whole-tree nonstructural carbohydrate storage and seasonal dynamics in five temperate species

Morgan E. Furze, Brett A. Huggett, Donald M. Aubrecht, Claire D. Stolz, Mariah S. Carbone, Andrew D. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


Despite the importance of nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) for growth and survival in woody plants, we know little about whole-tree NSC storage. The conventional theory suggests that NSC reserves will increase over the growing season and decrease over the dormant season. Here, we compare storage in five temperate tree species to determine the size and seasonal fluctuation of whole-tree total NSC pools as well as the contribution of individual organs. NSC concentrations in the branches, stemwood, and roots of 24 trees were measured across 12 months. We then scaled up concentrations to the whole-tree and ecosystem levels using allometric equations and forest stand inventory data. While whole-tree total NSC pools followed the conventional theory, sugar pools peaked in the dormant season and starch pools in the growing season. Seasonal depletion of total NSCs was minimal at the whole-tree level, but substantial at the organ level, particularly in branches. Surprisingly, roots were not the major storage organ as branches stored comparable amounts of starch throughout the year, and root reserves were not used to support springtime growth. Scaling up NSC concentrations to the ecosystem level, we find that commonly used, process-based ecosystem and land surface models all overpredict NSC storage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1466-1477
Number of pages12
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • Harvard Forest
  • carbon allocation
  • carbon balance
  • nonstructural carbohydrates (NSCs)
  • temperate trees
  • whole-tree NSC storage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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