Carbon Isotope Ratios and Physiological Processes in Aridland Plants

  • J. R. Ehleringer
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 68)


Carbon isotope ratios in plants were initially used to investigate photosynthetic pathway types and have more recently been extended to studies of water-use efficiency in C3 plants. The previous chapter by Farquhar et al. laid down the theoretical framework for why carbon isotope ratios should provide valuable insights into plant water-use efficiency studies and also provided strong experimental evidence of these patterns among agronomically important species. In this chapter, I focus on how carbon isotope ratios can be utilized in studies of aridland plants to understand ecophysiological processes.


Crassulacean Acid Metabolism Carbon Isotope Ratio Photosynthetic Pathway Desert Plant Crassulacean Acid Metabolism Plant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams MS and Strain BR (1968) Photosynthesis in stems and leaves of Cercidium floridum:spring and summer diurnal field response and relation to temperature. Oecol. Plant. 3:285–297.Google Scholar
  2. Bender MM (1968) Mass spectrometric studies of carbon-13 variations in corn and other grasses. Radiocarbon 10:468–472.Google Scholar
  3. Bender MM (1971) Variations in the 13C/12C ratios of plants in relation to the pathway of carbon dioxide fixation. Phytochemistry 10:1239–1244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cannon WA (1908) The topography of the chlorophyll apparatus in desert plants. Carnegie Inst. Wash. Publ. No. 98.Google Scholar
  5. Cannon WA (1908) The topography of the chlorophyll apparatus in desert plants. Carnegie Inst. Wash. Publ. No. 98.Google Scholar
  6. DeNiro MJ and Epstein S (1977) Mechanism of carbon isotope fractionation associated with lipid metabolism. Science 197:261–263.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Downton WJS, Grant WJR and Robinson SP (1985) Photosynthetic and stomatal responses of spinach leaves to salt stress. Plant Physiol. 78:85–88.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ehleringer JR (1984) Intraspecific competitive effects on water relations, growth and reproduction in Encelia farinosa. Oecologia 63:153–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ehleringer JR, Comstock JP and Cooper TA (1987) Leaf-twig differences in carbon isotope ratio in twig-photosynthesizing desert shrubs. Oecologia 71:318–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ehleringer JR, Cook CS and Tieszen LL (1986a) Comparative water use and nitrogen relationships in a mistletoe and its host. Oecologia 68:279–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ehleringer JR, Cook CS and Tieszen LL (1986a) Comparative water use and nitrogen relationships in a mistletoe and its host. Oecologia 68:279–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ehleringer JR, Field CB, Lin ZF and Kuo CY (1986b) Leaf carbon isotope ratio and mineral composition in subtropical plants along an irradiance cline. Oecologia 70:520– 526.Google Scholar
  13. Ehleringer JR and Schulze E-D (1985) Mineral concentrations in an autoparasitic Phoradendron californicum growing on a parasitic P. californicum and its host, Cercidium floridum. Am. J. Bot. 72:568–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ehleringer JR, Schulze E-D, Ziegler H, Lange OL, Farquhar GD, and Cowan IR (1985). Xylem-tapping mistletoes:water or nutrient parasites? Science 227:1479–1481.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eickmeier WG (1978) Photosynthetic pathway distributions along an aridity gradient in Big Bend National Park, and implications for enhanced resource partitioning. Photosynthetica 12:290–297.Google Scholar
  16. Eickmeier WG and Bender MM (1976) Carbon isotope ratios of Crassulacean acid metabolism species in relation to climate and phytosociology. Oecologia 25:341–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Farquhar GD, Ball MC, von Caemmerer S, and Roksandic Z (1982a) Effect of salinity and humidity on δ13C value of halophytes—evidence for diffusional isotope fractionation determined by the ratio of intercellular/atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 under different environmental conditions. Oecologia 52:121–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Farquhar GD, O’Leary MH, and Berry J A (1982b) On the relationship between carbon isotope discrimination and the intercellular carbon dioxide concentration of leaves. Aust. J. Plant Physiol. 9:121–137.Google Scholar
  19. Farquhar GD, Richards RA (1984) Isotopic composition of plant carbon correlates with water-use efficiency of wheat genotypes. Aust. J. Plant Physiol. 11:539–552.Google Scholar
  20. Fonteyn PJ and Mahall BE (1978) Competition among desert perennials. Nature 275:544– 545.Google Scholar
  21. Frey W and Kürschner H (1983) Photosynthetic pathways and ecological distribution of halophytes from some inland salines of Turkey, Jordan and Iran. Flora 173:293– 310 (in German).Google Scholar
  22. Gibson AC (1983) Anatomy of photosynthetic old stems of nonsucculent dicotyledons from North American deserts. Bot. Gaz. 144:347–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kuijt J (1969) The Biology of Parasitic Flowering Plants. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  24. Lange OL and Zuber M (1977) Frerea indica, a stem succulent CAM plant with deciduous C3 leaves. Oecologia 31:67–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mooney HA, Troughton JH and Berry JA (1974) Arid climates and photosynthetic systems. Carnegie Inst. Wash. Yearb. 74:793–805.Google Scholar
  26. Mooney HA, Troughton JH, and Berry JA (1977) Carbon isotope ratio measurements of succulent plants in southern Africa. Oecologia 30:295–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. O’Leary MH (1981) Carbon isotope fractionation in plants. Phytochemistry 20:553–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Osmond CB, Winter K, and Ziegler H (1982) Functional significance of different pathways of CO2 fixation in photosynthesis, pp. 479–547. In Lange OL, Nobel PS, Osmond CB, and Ziegler H (editors), Physiological Plant Ecology II. Water Relations and Carbon Assimilation. Encyclopedia of Plant Physiology, New Series, Vol. 12B. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.Google Scholar
  29. Philpott J and Troughton JH (1974) Photosynthetic mechanisms and leaf anatomy of hot desert plants. Carnegie Inst. Wash. Yearb. 73:790–793.Google Scholar
  30. Robberecht R, Mahall BE, and Nobel PS (1983) Experimental removal of intraspecific competitors—effects on water relation and productivity of a desert bunchgrass, Hilaria rigida. Oecologia 60:231–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sankhla N, Ziegler H, Vyas OP, Stichler W, and Trimborn P (1975) Ecophysiological studies on Indian arid zone plants. V. Screening of some species for the C4-pathway of photosynthetic CO2-fixation. Oecologia 21:123–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schulze E-D and Ehleringer JR (1984) The effect of nitrogen supply on growth and water use efficiency of xylem-tapping mistletoes. Planta 162:268–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schulze E-D and Schulze I (1976) Distribution and control of photosynthetic pathways in plants growing in the Namib Desert, with special regard to Welwitschia mirabilis Hook. fil. Madoqua 9:5–13.Google Scholar
  34. Schulze E-D, Turner NC, and Glatzel G (1984) Carbon, water and nutrient relations of two mistletoes and their hosts:a hypothesis. Plant Cell Environ. 7:293–299.Google Scholar
  35. Seemann JR and Critchley C (1985) Effects of salt stress on the growth, ion content, stomatal behaviour and photosynthetic capacity of a salt-sensitive species, Phaseolus vulgaris L. Planta 164:151–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Shomer-Ilan A, Nissenbaum A, and Waisel Y (1981) Photosynthetic pathways and the ecological distribution of the Chenopodiaceae in Israel. Oecologia 48:244–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Shreve F and Wiggins IL (1964) Vegetation and Flora of the Sonoran Desert. Stanford University Press, Stanford.Google Scholar
  38. Smith BN and Epstein S (1971) Two categories of 13C/12C ratios for higher plants. Plant Physiol. 47:380–384.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stowe LG and Teeri JA (1978) The geographic distribution of C4 species of the Dicotyledonae in relation to climate. Am. Nat. 112:609–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Syvertsen JP, Nickell GL, Spellenberg RW and Cunningham GL (1976) Carbon reduction pathways and standing crop in three Chihuahuan Desert plant communities. Southwest. Nat. 21:311–320.Google Scholar
  41. Szarek S and Troughton JH (1976) Carbon isotope ratios in CAM plants. Seasonal patterns from plants in natural stands. Plant Physiol. 58:125–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Teeri JA, Stowe LG, and Murawski DA (1978) The climatology of two succulent plant families:Cactaceae and Crassulaceae. Can. J. Bot. 56:1750–1758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Troughton JH, Mooney HA, Berry JA, and Verity D (1977) Variable carbon isotope ratios of Dudleya species growing in natural environments. Oecologia 30:307–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Werger MJA and Ellis RP (1981) Photosynthetic pathways in the arid regions of South Africa. Flora 171:64–75.Google Scholar
  45. Winter K (1979) d13C values of some succulent plants from Madagascar. Oecologia 40:103–112.Google Scholar
  46. Winter K (1981) C4 plants of high biomass in arid regions of Asia—occurrence of C4 photosynthesis in Chenopodiaceae and Polygonaceae from the Middle East and USSR. Oecologia 48:100–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Winter K, Lüttge U, Winter E, and Troughton JH (1978) Seasonal shift from C3 photosynthesis to Crassulacean acid metabolism in Mesembryanthemum crystallinum growing in its natural environment. Oecologia 34:225–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Winter K and Troughton JH (1978) Photosynthetic pathways in plants of coastal and inland habitats of Israel and the Sinai. Flora 167:1–34.Google Scholar
  49. Winter K, Troughton JH and Card KA (1976) d13C values of grass species collected in the northern Sahara Desert. Oecologia 25:115–123.Google Scholar
  50. Zalenskiï OV and Glagoleva T (1981) Pathway of carbon metabolism in halophytic desert species from Chenopodiaceae. Photosynthetica 15:244–255.Google Scholar
  51. Ziegler H, Batanouny KH, Sankhla N, Vyas OP, and Stichler W (1981) The photosynthetic pathway types of some desert plants from India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iraq. Oecologia 48:93–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. R. Ehleringer

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations