Articles | Volume 1, issue 2
13 Dec 2004
13 Dec 2004

Carbon isotope anomaly in the major plant C1 pool and its global biogeochemical implications

F. Keppler, R. M. Kalin, D. B. Harper, W. C. McRoberts, and J. T. G. Hamilton

Abstract. We report that the most abundant C1 units of terrestrial plants, the methoxyl groups of pectin and lignin, have a unique carbon isotope signature exceptionally depleted in 13C. Plant-derived C1 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are also anomalously depleted in 13C compared with Cn+1 VOCs. The results confirm that the plant methoxyl pool is the predominant source of biospheric C1 compounds of plant origin such as methanol, chloromethane and bromomethane. Furthermore this pool, comprising ca 2.5% of carbon in plant biomass, could be an important substrate for methanogenesis and thus be envisaged as a possible source of isotopically light methane entering the atmosphere. Our findings have significant implications for the use of carbon isotope ratios in elucidation of global carbon cycling. Moreover methoxyl groups could act as markers for biological activity in organic matter of terrestrial and extraterrestrial origin.

Final-revised paper