Articles | Volume 9, issue 8
Biogeosciences, 9, 3083–3111, 2012

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

Biogeosciences, 9, 3083–3111, 2012

Reviews and syntheses 13 Aug 2012

Reviews and syntheses | 13 Aug 2012

Progress and challenges in using stable isotopes to trace plant carbon and water relations across scales

C. Werner1,19, H. Schnyder2, M. Cuntz3, C. Keitel4, M. J. Zeeman5, T. E. Dawson6, F.-W. Badeck7, E. Brugnoli8, J. Ghashghaie9, T. E. E. Grams10, Z. E. Kayler11, M. Lakatos12, X. Lee13, C. Máguas14, J. Ogée15, K. G. Rascher1, R. T. W. Siegwolf16, S. Unger1, J. Welker17, L. Wingate18, and A. Gessler11 C. Werner et al.
  • 1Experimental and Systems Ecology, University Bielefeld, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany
  • 2Lehrstuhl für Grünlandlehre, Technische Universität München, 85350 Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany
  • 3UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
  • 4University of Sydney, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, 1 Central Avenue, Eveleigh, NSW 2015, Australia
  • 5College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 104 COAS Admin Bldg, Corvallis (OR), USA
  • 6Center for Isotope Biogeochemistry, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
  • 7Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) PF 60 12 03, 14412 Potsdam, Germany
  • 8CNR – National Research Council of Italy – Institute of Agro-environmental and Forest Biology, via Marconi 2, 05010 Porano (TR), Italy
  • 9Laboratoire d'Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution (ESE), CNRS AgroParisTech – UMR8079, Bâtiment 362, Université de Paris-Sud (XI), 91405 Orsay Cedex, France
  • 10Ecophysiology of Plants, Department of Ecology and Ecosystem Management, Technische Universität München, Von-Carlowitz-Platz 2, 85354 Freising, Germany
  • 11Institute for Landscape Biogeochemistry Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF) e.V., Eberswalderstr. 84, 15374 Müncheberg, Germany
  • 12Experimental Ecology, University of Kaiserslautern, Erwin-Schroedinger Str. 13, 67663 Kaiserslautern, Germany
  • 13School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
  • 14Centre for Environmental Biology, University of Lisbon, Campo Grande, 1749-016, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 15UR 1263, INRA, Bordeaux, France
  • 16Lab for Atmospheric Chemistry, Paul Scherrer Institute, 5232 Villigen-PSI, Switzerland
  • 17Environment and Natural Resources Institute, University of Alaska Anchorage, 3211 Providence Dr. Anchorage, AK 99508-4614, USA
  • 18Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  • 19Agroecosystem, Functional Ecosystem Research, University Bayreuth, 95447 Bayreuth, Germany

Abstract. Stable isotope analysis is a powerful tool for assessing plant carbon and water relations and their impact on biogeochemical processes at different scales. Our process-based understanding of stable isotope signals, as well as technological developments, has progressed significantly, opening new frontiers in ecological and interdisciplinary research. This has promoted the broad utilisation of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen isotope applications to gain insight into plant carbon and water cycling and their interaction with the atmosphere and pedosphere. Here, we highlight specific areas of recent progress and new research challenges in plant carbon and water relations, using selected examples covering scales from the leaf to the regional scale. Further, we discuss strengths and limitations of recent technological developments and approaches and highlight new opportunities arising from unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution of stable isotope measurements.

Final-revised paper