Leaf-scale quantification of the effect of photosynthetic gas exchange on Δ17O of atmospheric CO2

Getachew Agmuas Adnew, Thijs L. Pons, Gerbrand Koren, Wouter Peters, Thomas Röckmann

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Understanding the processes that affect the triple oxygen isotope composition of atmospheric CO2 during gas exchange can help constrain the interaction and fluxes between the atmosphere and the biosphere. We conducted leaf cuvette experiments under controlled conditions using three plant species. The experiments were conducted at two different light intensities and using CO2 with different 117O.
We directly quantify the effect of photosynthesis on 117O of atmospheric CO2 for the first time. Our results demonstrate the established theory for δ 18O is applicable to 117O(CO2) at leaf level, and we confirm that the following two key factors determine the effect of photosynthetic gas exchange on the 117O of atmospheric CO2. The relative difference between 117O of the CO2 entering the leaf and the CO2 in equilibrium with leaf water and the back-diffusion flux of CO2 from the leaf to the atmosphere, which can be quantified by the cm/ca ratio, where ca is the CO2 mole fraction in the surrounding air and cm is the one at the site of oxygen isotope exchange between CO2 and H2O. At low cm/ca ratios the discrimination is governed mainly by diffusion into the leaf, and at high cm/ca ratios it is governed by back-diffusion of CO2 that has equilibrated with the leaf water. Plants with a higher cm/ca ratio modify the 117O of atmospheric CO2 more strongly than plants with a lower cm/ca ratio. Based on the leaf cuvette experiments, the global value for discrimination against 117O of atmospheric CO2 during photosynthetic gas exchange is estimated to be −0.57±0.14 ‰ using cm/ca values of 0.3 and 0.7 for C4 and C3 plants, respectively. The main uncertainties in this global estimate arise from variation in cm/ca ratios among plants and growth conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3903-3922
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2020


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