Below-ground responses of silver birch trees exposed to elevated CO2 and O-3 levels during three growing seasons
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Field-growing silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) clones (clone 4 and 80) were exposed to elevated CO2 and O-3 in open-top chambers for three consecutive growing seasons (1999-2001). At the beginning of the OTC experiment, all trees were 7 years old. We studied the single and interaction effects of CO2 and O-3 on silver birch below-ground carbon pools (i.e. effects on fine roots and mycorrhizas, soil microbial communities and sporocarp production) and also assessed whether there are any clonal differences in these below-ground CO2 and O-3 responses. The total mycorrhizal infection level of both clones was stimulated by elevated CO2 alone and elevated O-3 alone, but not when elevated CO2 was used in fumigation in combination with elevated O-3. In both clones, elevated CO2 affected negatively light brown/orange mycorrhizas, while its effect on other mycorrhizal morphotypes was negligible. Elevated O-3, instead, clearly decreased the proportions of black and liver-brown mycorrhizas and increased that of light brown/orange mycorrhizas. Elevated O-3 had a tendency to decrease standing fine root mass and sporocarp production as well, both of these O-3 effects mainly manifesting in clone 4 trees. CO2 and O-3 treatment effects on soil microbial community composition (PLFA, 2- and 3-OH-FA profiles) were negligible, but quantitative PLFA data showed that in 2001 the PLFA fungi : bacteria-ratio of clone 80 trees was marginally increased because of elevated CO2 treatments. This study shows that O-3 effects were most clearly visible at the mycorrhizal root level and that some clonal differences in CO2 and O-3 responses were observable in the below-ground carbon pools. In conclusion, the present data suggests that CO2 effects were minor, whereas increasing tropospheric O-3 levels can be an important stress factor in northern birch forests, as they might alter mycorrhizal morphotype assemblages, mycorrhizal infection rates and sporocarp production.