Plant and Soil

, Volume 298, Issue 1–2, pp 31–45 | Cite as

Stable isotope composition of water in desert plants

  • J. R. Gat
  • D. YakirEmail author
  • G. Goodfriend
  • P. Fritz
  • P. Trimborn
  • J. Lipp
  • I. Gev
  • E. Adar
  • Y. Waisel
Regular Article


A survey of the stable isotope content of tissue waters of plants from the Negev desert was conducted. Large differences were observed in the extent of enrichment of the heavy isotopes in leaf water relative to local precipitation among different plants. This is apparently caused by the species-dependent stratagems adopted by the plants to cope with water stress, primarily by differences in the depth of water uptake in the soil and through the timing of stomatal openings during the daily cycle. Salt stressed plants showed extreme variability in the isotopic composition of leaf–water. The results show that plants with adaptation to arid conditions can avoid the transpiration regime, which would lead to the strong isotopic enrichment in their leaf water expected under arid conditions. This has implications for the use of stable isotopes in plants as indicators of either plant ecophysiology or paleoclimate.


Stable isotopes 182Desert plants Water stress Leaf water 



Support from the GIF (German Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development) and from the Israel Academy of Science is gratefully acknowledged. The complete dataset obtained in this project is available in the final report of the GIF Research project I-125-049-08/89 entitled “Water isotopes in desert plants; an indicator of water usage patterns and a paleoclimatic tool for studying arid zone climate changes in plant proxy materials”, June 1994.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. R. Gat
    • 1
  • D. Yakir
    • 1
    Email author
  • G. Goodfriend
    • 1
  • P. Fritz
    • 2
  • P. Trimborn
    • 2
  • J. Lipp
    • 2
  • I. Gev
    • 3
  • E. Adar
    • 3
  • Y. Waisel
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences and Energy ResearchWeizmann Institute of ScienceRehovotIsrael
  2. 2.GSF-NeuherbergMunichGermany
  3. 3.Blaustein Institutes for Desert ResearchBen-Gurion UniversitySede Boker CampusIsrael
  4. 4.Department of Plant SciencesTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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