Stable isotopes in plants as recorders of the environment

The stable O, H, C and N isotope composition of plant materials is determined by the environment that a plant experiences during growth and by the physiological performance of the plant. The stable isotope composition of plant materials such as tree rings, herbarium collections or plant remains in lake and marine sediments can thus provide important information on present and past environments and how plants have performed therein.

In our research we investigate the environmental and plant physiological processes that shape the O, H, C and N isotope composition of plant materials. We apply this knowledge to identify patterns in plant environment interactions and to identify the long-term physiological responses of plants to global environmental change.


Current projects: iTREE, ALPWAX, COSIWAX

Key Publications

Kahmen A, Schefuß E, Sachse D (2013) Leaf water deuterium enrichment shapes leaf wax n-alkane δD values of angiosperm plants I: Experimental evidence and mechanistic insight. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 111:39-49.

Kahmen A, Sachse D, Arndt SK, Farrington H, Vitousek PM, Dawson TE (2011) Cellulose δ18O is an index of leaf to air vapor pressure difference (VPD) in tropical plants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 108: 1981-1096.

Craine JM, Elmore AJ , Aidar MPM, Bustamante M, Dawson TE, Hobbie EA, Kahmen A, Mack MC, McLauchlan KK, Michelsen A, Nardoto GB, Pardo LH, Peñuelas J, Reich PB, Schuur EAG, Stock WD, Templer PH, Virginia RA, Welker JM, Wright IJ (2009) Global patterns of foliar nitrogen isotopes and their relationships with climate, mycorrhizal fungi, foliar nutrient concentrations, and nitrogen availability. New Phytologist, 183: 980-992.