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Leaf carbon isotope ratio and water use efficiency of urban roadside trees in summer in Kyoto city


The effect of summer climate on leaf carbon isotope composition (δ13C) of the major roadside tree species Prunus × yedoensis (P. yedoensis) was investigated in Kyoto city, Japan, to explore the implications for alterations in urban environments. Temperature and the vapor pressure deficit were higher at sites of higher traffic volumes, possibly affected by a heat island effect. The leaf δ13C of P. yedoensis trees was affected strongly by leaf carbon isotope discrimination (Δ), with much less effect of δ13C on atmospheric CO2. Leaf Δ values in the summer were smaller at sites of higher traffic volumes with high atmospheric temperatures, suggesting a higher long-term water use efficiency (WUE) at these sites. Gas exchange measurements of P. yedoensis leaves indeed suggested a higher intrinsic WUE at sites of higher traffic volumes with high atmospheric temperatures. These results suggest that leaf Δ is related to the response of WUE to summer climates, and that leaf δ13C in urban areas is a useful tracer for understanding the influences of urban environments on plant photosynthetic processes.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


A :

CO2 assimilation rate

C i :

Leaf intercellular CO2 partial pressure


Carbon isotope discrimination


Carbon isotope ratio

δ a :

δ13C of atmospheric CO2

δ p :

δ13C of plant leaves


Densely inhabited district (population density of >4,000 inhabitants km−2, and a combined population of contiguous districts >5,000)

E :

Evaporation rate


Electric conductivity of soil

g s :

Stomatal CO2 conductance

Ox :

Photochemical oxidants


Photosynthetic photon flux density


Index of the chlorophyll concentration of the leaves developed by the Soil and Plant Analyzer Development


Volumetric soil water content


Water use efficiency


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This work was supported by the JSPS Research Fellowship for Young Scientists (12740423-00) and the Sumitomo Foundation (103230). Leaf δ values were measured at the Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University. We deeply appreciate the support provided by the Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University. We also appreciate helpful comments from the reviewers and an editor. We performed a multiple regression analysis following detailed advice from an anonymous reviewer. We deeply appreciate his/her strong support.

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Correspondence to Yuko T. Hanba.

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Kagotani, Y., Fujino, K., Kazama, T. et al. Leaf carbon isotope ratio and water use efficiency of urban roadside trees in summer in Kyoto city. Ecol Res 28, 725–734 (2013).

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  • Photosynthesis
  • Carbon isotope discrimination
  • Heat island
  • Atmospheric CO2
  • Prunus yedoensis