• oxygen isotope ratio;
  • leaf water models;
  • spatial variation;
  • humidity;
  • transpiration;
  • xylem


A model has been derived for the enrichment of heavy isotopes of water in leaves, including progressive enrichment along the leaf. In the model, lighter water is preferentially transpired leaving heavier water to diffuse back into the xylem and be carried further along the leaf. For this pattern to be pronounced, the ratio of advection to diffusion (Péclet number) has to be large in the longitudinal direction, and small in the radial direction. The progressive enrichment along the xylem is less than that occurring at the sites of evaporation in the mesophyll, depending on the isolation afforded by the radial Péclet number. There is an upper bound on enrichment, and effects of ground tissue associated with major veins are included. When transpiration rate is spatially nonuniform, averaging of enrichment occurs more naturally with transpiration weighting than with area-based weighting. This gives zero average enrichment of transpired water, the modified Craig–Gordon equation for average enrichment at the sites of evaporation and the Farquhar and Lloyd (In Stable Isotopes and Plant Carbon-Water Relations, pp. 47–70. Academic Press, New York, USA, 1993) prediction for mesophyll water. Earlier results on the isotopic composition of evolved oxygen and of retro-diffused carbon dioxide are preserved if these processes vary in parallel with transpiration rate. Parallel variation should be indicated approximately by uniform carbon isotope discrimination across the leaf.