Published June 22, 2022 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Do mycorrhizal symbionts drive latitudinal trends in photosynthetic carbon use efficiency and carbon sequestration in boreal forests?

  • 1. Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR) /Forest Sciences, Helsinki
  • 2. Natural Resources Institute Finland
  • 3. Department of Forest Ecology and Management, SLU, Umeå


There is evidence that carbon fluxes and stocks decrease with increasing latitude in boreal forests, suggesting areduction in carbon use efficiency. While vegetation and soi! carbon dynamics have been widely studied, the empirical finding that ectomycorrhizal fungi (ECM) become more abundant towards the north has not been quantitatively linked to carbon use efficiency. We formulated a conceptual model of combined fine-root and ECM carbon use efficiency (CUE) as NPP /GPP (net primary production/gross primary production). For this, we included the mycorrhiza as gains in plant NPP but considered the extramatrical hyphae as well as exudates as losses. We quantified the carbon processes across a latitudinal gradient using published eco-physiological and morphological measurements from boreal coniferous forests. !n parallel, we developed two CUE models using large-scale empirical measurements amended with established models. Ali models predicted similar latitudinal trends in vegetation CUE and net ecosystem production (NEP). CUE in the ECM model declined on average by 0.1 from latitude 60 to 70 with overall mean 0.390 ± 0.037. NEP declined by 200 g m-2 yr-1 with mean 171 ± 79.4 g m-2 yr-1• ECM had no significant effect on predicted soi! carbon. Our findings suggest that ECM can use a significant proportion of the carbon assimilated by vegetation and hence be an important driver of the decline in CUE at higher latitudes. Our model suggests the quantitative contribution of ECM to soi! carbon to be less important but any possible implications through litter quality remain to be assessed. The approach provides a simple proxy of ECM processes for regional C budget models and estimates.


Grants: Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (#2015.0047), Academy of Finland (#335958, #322066), EU H2020 (#101000289).


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HoliSoils – Holistic management practices, modelling and monitoring for European forest soils 101000289
European Commission