Photosynthesis pp 155-196 | Cite as

Using Stable Carbon Isotopes to Study C3 and C4 Photosynthesis: Models and Calculations

  • Nerea Ubierna
  • Meisha-Marika Holloway-Phillips
  • Graham D. Farquhar
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1770)


Stable carbon isotopes are a powerful tool to study photosynthesis. Initial applications consisted of determining isotope ratios of plant biomass using mass spectrometry. Subsequently, theoretical models relating C-isotope values to gas exchange characteristics were introduced and tested against instantaneous online measurements of 13C photosynthetic discrimination. Beginning in the twenty-first century, tunable diode laser spectroscopes with sufficient precision for determining isotope mixing ratios became commercially available. This has allowed collection of large data sets, at low cost and with unprecedented temporal resolution. With more data and accompanying knowledge, it has become apparent that there is a need for increased complexity in models and calculations. This chapter describes instantaneous online measurements of 13C photosynthetic discrimination, provides recommendations for experimental setup, and presents a thorough compilation of equations needed for different applications.

Key words

Tunable diode laser absorption spectroscope C3 C4 Carbon isotope discrimination Laser Leakiness Photosynthesis Mesophyll conductance Online δ13


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nerea Ubierna
    • 1
  • Meisha-Marika Holloway-Phillips
    • 2
  • Graham D. Farquhar
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences, Molecular Plant SciencesWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  2. 2.Research School of BiologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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