Using 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy for the study of northern hardwood tissues

Chris E. Johnson, Ronald J. Smernik, Thomas G. Siccama, David K. Kiemle, Zhihong Xu, Daniel J. Vogt

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26 Scopus citations


Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a useful tool for examining the structural chemistry of natural organic matter. The use of cross-polarization and magic-angle spinning to study 13C functionality (CPMAS 13C NMR) is convenient, but not always quantitative. We used various 13C NMR techniques to examine the structural chemistry of bark and wood of sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.), American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.), and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britt.). Spin counting experiments showed that 87%-97% of the 13C in the samples was observable by CPMAS 13C NMR. A comparison of CPMAS and Bloch decay experiments revealed few differences in spectral properties. Together, these results suggest that CPMAS 13C NMR is quantitative for these tissues. We observed little variation in the structural chemistry of wood, either among samples of the same species or among species. Within-species variations in bark chemistry were greater than in wood, probably because of variations in environmental conditions. However, we observed no significant differences in bark chemistry among the species. Bark and wood chemistry differed significantly, with the bark spectra displaying greater contributions from lignin, suberin, waxes, and resins. Hardwood spectra differ from softwood spectra in the aromatic C regions because of the contribution of syringyl units to hardwood lignin. Hardwood bark appears to contain less tannins than softwood bark. Together, the quantitative and qualitative features of CPMAS 13C NMR spectra are useful for studying the ecology of living and detrital wood and bark.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1821-1831
Number of pages11
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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