The role of effective leaf mixing length in the relationship between the δ18O of stem cellulose and source water across a salinity gradient

Patricia V. Ellsworth, Patrick Z. Ellsworth, William T. Anderson, Leonel S.L. Sternberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Previous mangrove tree ring studies attempted, unsuccessfully, to relate the δ18O of trunk cellulose (δ18OCELL) to the δ18O of source water (δ18OSW). Here, we tested whether biochemical fractionation associated with one of the oxygen in the cellulose glucose moiety or variation in leaf water oxygen isotope fractionation (ΔLW) can interfere with the δ18OSW signal as it is recorded in the δ18OCELL of mangrove (saltwater) and hammock (freshwater) plants. We selected two transects experiencing a salinity gradient, located in the Florida Keys, USA. The δ18OCELL throughout both transects did not show the pattern expected based on that of the δ18OSW. We found that in one of the transects, biochemical fractionation interfered with the δ18OSW signal, while in the other transect ΔLW differed between mangrove and hammock plants. Observed differences in ΔLW between mangroves and hammocks were caused by a longer effective leaf mixing length (L) of the water pathway in mangrove leaves compared to those of hammock leaves. Changes in L could have caused the δ18OCELL to record not only variations in the δ18OSW but also in ΔLW making it impossible to isolate the δ18OSW signal. This is a study of two potential obstacles to monitor sea level rise using oxygen isotope ratios of stem cellulose. Oxygen isotope ratios of stem cellulose did not record with a high fidelity changes in source water isotope ratios from ocean to freshwater across two coastal transects. Biochemical fractionations interfered with the oxygen isotope ratio of the stem water signal during its recording into the oxygen isotope ratio of stem cellulose in one of the transects. Changes in the leaf water oxygen isotopic enrichment between mangroves and freshwater plants interfered with the source water oxygen isotopic signal in the other transect. Further studies on the effects of salinity stress on biochemical and physiological oxygen isotope fractionation are necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-148
Number of pages11
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Freshwater plants
  • Leaf water oxygen isotope fractionation
  • Mangroves
  • Oxygen isotope fractionation of phenylglucosazone
  • Oxygen isotope fractionation of stem cellulose
  • Sea level rise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Physiology


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of effective leaf mixing length in the relationship between the δ18O of stem cellulose and source water across a salinity gradient'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this