Variability of 13C-labeling in plant leaves


  • Presented at the Joint European Stable Isotope Users Group Meeting (JESIUM) 2012 held in Leipzig, Germany, on September 2–7, 2012.



Plant tissues artificially labeled with 13C are increasingly used in environmental studies to unravel biogeochemical and ecophysiological processes. However, the variability of 13C-content in labeled tissues has never been carefully investigated. Hence, this study aimed at documenting the variability of 13C-content in artificially labeled leaves.


European beech and Italian ryegrass were subjected to long-term 13C-labeling in a controlled-environment growth chamber. The 13C-content of the leaves obtained after several months labeling was determined by isotope ratio mass spectrometry.


The 13C-content of the labeled leaves exhibited inter- and intra-leaf variability much higher than those naturally occurring in unlabeled plants, which do not exceed a few per mil. This variability was correlated with labeling intensity: the isotope composition of leaves varied in ranges of ca 60‰ and 90‰ for experiments that led to average leaf 13C-content of ca +15‰ and +450‰, respectively.


The reported variability of isotope composition in 13C-enriched leaves is critical, and should be taken into account in subsequent experimental investigations of environmental processes using 13C-labeled plant tissues. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.