Oxygen isotope ratio stratification in a tropical moist forest

Leonel da Silveira, Lobo Sternberg, Stephen S. Mulkey, S. Joseph Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Oxygen isotope ratios were determined in leaf cellulose from two plant species at Barro Colorado (Republic of Panama) in 4 different plots, two of which were undergoing an irrigation treatment during the dry season. There is a gradient in δ18O values of leaf cellulose from the understory to canopy leaves, reflecting the differences in relative humidity between these two levels of the forest. This gradient is most pronounced in irrigated plots. For irrigated plots there was a highly significant correlation between δ18O and δ13C values, which was not observed in control plots. This relationship can be explained by humidity controlling stomatal conductance. Low humidity affects δ18O values of leaf water during photosynthesis, which isotopically labels cellulose during its synthesis. Low humidity also decreases stomatal conductance, which affects discrimination against carbon-13 by photosynthetic reactions, thus affecting the δ13C values of photosynthates. WUE values calculated by using plant carbon and oxygen isotope ratios were similar to those observed with gas exchange measurements in other tropical and temperate area. Thus the concurrent analysis of carbon and oxygen isotope ratios of leaf material can potentially be useful for long term estimation of assimilation and evapotranspiration regimes of plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-56
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 1989


  • Humidity
  • Microenvironment
  • Stable isotope
  • Tropical forests
  • Water use efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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