, Volume 121, Issue 4, pp 467-477

Hydrogen and oxygen isotope ratios of tree-ring cellulose for riparian trees grown long-term under hydroponically controlled environments

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Abstract 

Saplings of three riparian tree species (alder, birch and cottonwood) were grown for over 5 months in a hydroponics system that maintained the isotopic composition of source water in six treatments, ranging from –120 to +180‰δD and –15 to +10‰δ18O. The trees were grown in two greenhouses maintained at 25°C and at either 40 or 75% relative humidity, creating differences in transpiration rates and leaf water isotopic evaporative enrichment. The cellulose produced in the annual growth ring was linearly related to source water with differences in both slope and offset associated with greenhouse humidity. The slope of the isotopic composition of source water versus tree-ring cellulose was less than 1 for both δD and δ18O indicating incomplete isotopic exchange of carbohydrate substrate with xylem water during cellulose synthesis. Tests using the outer portion of the tree-ring and new roots were similar and showed that the tree-ring values were representative of the cellulose laid down under the imposed environmental conditions. The fraction of H and O in carbohydrate substrate that isotopically exchange with medium water was calculated to be 0.36 and 0.42 respectively, and biochemical mechanisms for these observed fractions are discussed. A mechanistic model of the biochemical fractionation events for both δD and δ18O leading to cellulose synthesis was robust over the wide range of cellulose stable isotope ratios. The experimental results indicate that both water source and humidity information are indeed recorded in tree-ring cellulose. These results help to resolve some of the disparate observations regarding the interpretation of stable isotope ratios in tree-rings found in the literature.

Received: 4 January 1999 / Accepted: 12 August 1999