The relative uptake of Ca and Sr into tree foliage using a whole-watershed calcium addition

Amanda Ash Dasch, Joel D. Blum, Christopher Eagar, Timothy J. Fahey, Charles T. Driscoll, Thomas G. Siccama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The use of strontium isotopes and ratios of alkaline earth elements (i.e., 87Sr/86Sr and Ca/Sr) to trace Ca sources to plants has become common in ecosystem studies. Here we examine the relative uptake of Ca and Sr in trees and subsequent accumulation in foliage. Using a whole-watershed Ca addition experiment at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in N.H., we measured the uptake of Ca relative to Sr in foliage and roots of sugar maple (Acer saccharum), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), and red spruce (Picea rubens). Vegetation was analyzed for Ca and Sr concentrations and the 87Sr/86Sr ratio. A comparison of the Ca/Sr ratio in the vegetation and the Ca/Sr ratio of the applied mineral allows for the calculation of a discrimination factor, which defines whether Ca and Sr are incorporated and allocated in the same ratio as that which is available. A discrimination factor greater than unity indicates preferential uptake of Ca over Sr; a factor less than unity reflects preferential uptake of Sr over Ca. We demonstrate that sugar maple (SM) and yellow birch (YB) have similar and small discrimination factors (1.14 ± 0.12,1σ and 1.16 ± 0.09,1σ) in foliage formation and discrimination factors of less than 1 in root formation (0.55-0.70). Uptake into beech suggests a larger discrimination factor (1.9 ± 1.2) in foliage but a similar root discrimination factor to SM and YB (0.66 ± 0.06,1σ). Incorporation into spruce foliage occurs at a much slower rate than in these other tree species and precludes evaluation of Ca and Sr discrimination in spruce foliage at this time. Understanding the degree to which Ca is fractionated from Sr in different species allows for refinement in the use of 87Sr/ 86Sr and Ca/Sr ratios to trace Ca sources to foliage. Methods from this study can be applied to natural environments in which various soil cation pools have different 87Sr/86Sr and Ca/Sr ratios. The results reported herein have implications for re-evaluating Ca sources and fluxes in forest ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-41
Number of pages21
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Acer saccharum
  • Acid deposition
  • Betula alleghaniensis
  • Biocycling
  • Ca
  • Fagus grandifolia
  • Foliage
  • Sr isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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