Ecological Research

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 342–353 | Cite as

Spatial patterns of foliar stable carbon isotope compositions of C3 plant species in the Loess Plateau of China

Original Article


The spatial pattern of foliar stable carbon isotope compositions (δ13C) of dominant species and their relationships with environmental factors in seven sites, Yangling, Yongshou, Tongchuan, Fuxian, Ansai, Mizhi and Shenmu, standing from south to north in the Loess Plateau of China, was studied. The results showed that in the 121 C3 plant samples collected from the Loess Plateau, the foliar δ13C value ranged from −22.66‰ to −30.70‰, averaging −27.04‰. The foliar δ13C value varied significantly (P<0.01) among the seven sites, and the average δ13C value increased by about 1.69‰ from Yangling in the south to Shenmu in the north as climatic drought increased. There was a significant difference in foliar δ13C value among three life-forms categorized from all the plant samples in the Loess Plateau (P<0.001). The trees (−26.74‰) and shrubs (−26.68‰) had similar mean δ13C values, both significantly (P<0.05) higher than the mean δ13C value of herbages (−27.69‰). It was shown that the trees and shrubs had higher WUEs and employed more conservative water-use patterns to survive drier habitats in the Loess Plateau. Of all the C3 species in the Loess Plateau, the foliar δ13C values were significantly and negatively correlated with the mean annual rainfall (P<0.001) and mean annual temperature (P<0.05), while being significantly and positively correlated with the latitude (P<0.001) and the annual solar radiation (P<0.01). In general, the foliar δ13C values increased as the latitude and solar radiation increased and the rainfall and temperature decreased. The annual rainfall as the main influencing factor could explain 13.3% of the spatial variations in foliar δ13C value. A 100 mm increment in annual rainfall would result in a decrease by 0.88‰ in foliar δ13C values.


Stable carbon isotope composition C3 species Life-form Mean annual rainfall Loess Plateau 


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess PlateauInstitute of Soil and Water Conservation, Chinese Academy of SciencesYanglingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Northwest A & F UniversityYanglingPeople’s Republic of China

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