Articles | Volume 8, issue 10
Biogeosciences, 8, 3093–3106, 2011

Special issue: Stable isotopes and biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial...

Biogeosciences, 8, 3093–3106, 2011

Research article 31 Oct 2011

Research article | 31 Oct 2011

Novel applications of carbon isotopes in atmospheric CO2: what can atmospheric measurements teach us about processes in the biosphere?

A. P. Ballantyne1, J. B. Miller3,2, I. T. Baker4, P. P. Tans2, and J. W. C. White5 A. P. Ballantyne et al.
  • 1Geological Sciences Department University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 2NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 3Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 4Department of Atmospheric Science Colorado State University Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
  • 5Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado, USA

Abstract. Conventionally, measurements of carbon isotopes in atmospheric CO213CO2) have been used to partition fluxes between terrestrial and ocean carbon pools. However, novel analytical approaches combined with an increase in the spatial extent and frequency of δ13CO2 measurements allow us to conduct a global analysis of δ13CO2 variability to infer the isotopic composition of source CO2 to the atmosphere (δs). This global analysis yields coherent seasonal patterns of isotopic enrichment. Our results indicate that seasonal values of δs are more highly correlated with vapor pressure deficit (r = 0.404) than relative humidity (r = 0.149). We then evaluate two widely used stomatal conductance models and determine that the Leuning Model, which is primarily driven by vapor pressure deficit is more effective globally at predicting δs (RMSE = 1.6‰) than the Ball-Woodrow-Berry model, which is driven by relative humidity (RMSE = 2.7‰). Thus stomatal conductance on a global scale may be more sensitive to changes in vapor pressure deficit than relative humidity. This approach highlights a new application of using δ13CO2 measurements to validate global models.

Final-revised paper