Stable-Isotope Techniques to Investigate Sources of Plant Water
Stable isotopologues of water (mainly 1H216O, HD16O and 1H218O) have been used for decades as tracers of the Earth’s water cycle. In this chapter, we briefly describe the theoretical background and state-of-the-art techniques of the use of water stable isotopes to investigate the sources of plant water. We aim to provide the basic understanding of stable isotope fractionation within the Earth’s critical zone that is relevant for studies of plant water sources. We then present a practical guide of their most common applications in field studies and the most common and up-to-date laboratory procedures. We finally introduce the existing statistical approaches for estimating the relative contributions of water sources to plant transpiration.
By acknowledging the advantages and limitations of each approach, we aim to provide an overview of the current techniques to researchers in the fields of plant ecophysiology, ecohydrology and forest ecology, so that they can make informed decisions when designing their experiments.
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