Hydrogen exchange during cellulose synthesis distinguishes climatic and biochemical isotope fractionations in tree rings


Author for correspondence: Jürgen Schleucher Tel: +46-90-786-5388 Fax: +46-90-786-9795 Email: jurgen.schleucher@chem.umu.se


  • • The abundance of the hydrogen isotope deuterium (D) in tree rings is an attractive record of climate; however, use of this record has proved difficult so far, presumably because climatic and physiological influences on D abundance are difficult to distinguish.
  • • Using D labelling, we created a D gradient in trees. Leaf soluble sugars of relatively low D abundance entered cellulose synthesis in stems containing strongly D-labelled water. We used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to quantify D in the C-H groups of leaf glucose and of tree-ring cellulose.
  • • Ratios of D abundances of individual C-H groups of leaf glucose depended only weakly on leaf D labelling, indicating that the D abundance pattern was determined by physiological influences. The D abundance pattern of tree-ring cellulose revealed C-H groups that exchanged strongly (C(2)-H) or weakly (C(6)-H2) with water during cellulose synthesis.
  • • We propose that strongly exchanging C-H groups of tree-ring cellulose adopt a climate signal stemming from the D abundance of source water. C-H groups that exchange weakly retain their D abundance established in leaf glucose, which reflects physiological influences. Combining both types of groups may allow simultaneous reconstruction of climate and physiology from tree rings.