Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Understanding the Stable Isotope Composition of Biosphere-Atmosphere CO2 Exchange



Stable isotopes of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) contain a wealth of information regarding biosphere-atmosphere interactions. The carbon isotope ratio of CO213C) reflects the terrestrial carbon cycle including processes of photosynthesis, respiration, and decomposition. The oxygen isotope ratio (δ18O) reflects terrestrial carbon and water coupling due to CO2-H2O oxygen exchange. Isotopic CO2 measurements, in combination with ecosystem-isotopic exchange models, allow for the quantification of patterns and mechanisms regulating terrestrial carbon and water cycles, as well as for hypothesis development, data interpretation, and forecasting. Isotopic measurements and models have evolved significantly over the past two decades, resulting in organizations that promote model-measurement networks, e.g., the U.S. National Science Foundation's Biosphere-Atmosphere Stable Isotope Network, the European Stable Isotopes in Biosphere-Atmosphere Exchange Network, and the U.S. National Environmental Observatory Network.