, Volume 187, Issue 4, pp 995–1007 | Cite as

Assessing the interplay between canopy energy balance and photosynthesis with cellulose δ18O: large-scale patterns and independent ground-truthing

  • Brent R. HellikerEmail author
  • Xin Song
  • Michael L. Goulden
  • Kenneth Clark
  • Paul Bolstad
  • J. William Munger
  • Jiquan Chen
  • Asko Noormets
  • David Hollinger
  • Steve Wofsy
  • Timothy Martin
  • Dennis Baldocchi
  • Eugenie Euskirchenn
  • Ankur Desai
  • Sean P. Burns
Special Topic


There are few whole-canopy or ecosystem scale assessments of the interplay between canopy temperature and photosynthesis across both spatial and temporal scales. The stable oxygen isotope ratio (δ18O) of plant cellulose can be used to resolve a photosynthesis-weighted estimate of canopy temperature, but the method requires independent confirmation. We compare isotope-resolved canopy temperatures derived from multi-year homogenization of tree cellulose δ18O to canopy-air temperatures weighted by gross primary productivity (GPP) at multiple sites, ranging from warm temperate to boreal and subalpine forests. We also perform a sensitivity analysis for isotope-resolved canopy temperatures that showed errors in plant source water δ18O lead to the largest errors in canopy temperature estimation. The relationship between isotope-resolved canopy temperatures and GPP-weighted air temperatures was highly significant across sites (p < 0.0001, R2 = 0.82), thus offering confirmation of the isotope approach. The previously observed temperature invariance from temperate to boreal biomes was confirmed, but the greater elevation of canopy temperature above air temperature in the boreal forest was not. Based on the current analysis, we conclude that canopy temperatures in the boreal forest are as warm as those in temperate systems because day-time-growing-season air temperatures are similarly warm.


Stable oxygen isotope Energy balance Canopy temperature Leaf temperature Gross primary production δ18



BRH would like to acknowledge the intellectually stimulating and unfailingly supportive environment provided by Jim Ehleringer during those young and formative years, despite the ongoing and fruitless quest to locate Baby Jesus. BRH and XS were supported by the National Science Foundation under award number IOS-0950998. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is sponsored by NSF.

Author contribution statement

BRH and XS conceived and designed the data collection and modeling approach. BRH, XS, MLG, KC, PB, JWM, JC, AN, DH, SW, TM, DB, EE, AD and SPB collected and analyzed data. BRH and XS wrote the manuscript; other authors provided editorial advice.

Supplementary material

442_2018_4198_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (45 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 44 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brent R. Helliker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Xin Song
    • 1
    • 13
  • Michael L. Goulden
    • 2
  • Kenneth Clark
    • 3
  • Paul Bolstad
    • 4
  • J. William Munger
    • 5
  • Jiquan Chen
    • 6
  • Asko Noormets
    • 7
  • David Hollinger
    • 8
  • Steve Wofsy
    • 5
  • Timothy Martin
    • 9
  • Dennis Baldocchi
    • 10
  • Eugenie Euskirchenn
    • 11
  • Ankur Desai
    • 12
  • Sean P. Burns
    • 14
    • 15
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth System ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  3. 3.USDA Forest ServiceNorthern Research StationNew LisbonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Forest ResourcesUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA
  5. 5.Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied SciencesHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  6. 6.Department of Geography, Center for Global Change and Earth Observations (CGCEO)Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  7. 7.Department of Ecosystem Science and ManagementTexas A & M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  8. 8.USDA Forest ServiceNorthern Research StationDurhamUSA
  9. 9.School of Forest Resources and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  10. 10.ESPM, University of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  11. 11.Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska-FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  12. 12.Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic SciencesUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  13. 13.College of Life Sciences and OceanographyShenzhen UniversityShenzhenChina
  14. 14.Department of GeographyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  15. 15.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA

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