Stable Isotopes in Ecological Research

Volume 68 of the series Ecological Studies pp 82-94

Studies of Mechanisms Affecting the Fractionation of Carbon Isotopes in Photosynthesis

  • J. A. Berry

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The fractionation of carbon isotopes during photosynthesis involves several distinct biochemical and physical processes that share control of CO2 uptake. These processes have different tendencies to discriminate between 12C and 13C, and the overall discrimination of a particular plant will be a function of the mechanism it uses for CO2 fixation and the relative balance of the processes that participate in photosynthesis. Many studies have examined the influence of environmental and biological factors on the carbon isotope composition of plants (for reviews, see O’Leary 1981; Troughton et al. 1974; Vogel 1980). The eventual goal of much of this work is to use the carbon isotope composition of plants to provide information about the photosynthetic processes of the plant during the time it grew. While empirical correlations are useful, it is obviously also important to develop a sound theoretical foundation for interpreting these differences.