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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Linking canopy-scale mesophyll conductance and phloem sugar delta C-13 using empirical and modelling approaches

Schiestl-Aalto, Pauliina; Stangl, Zsofia R.; Tarvainen, Lasse; Wallin, Goran; Marshall, John; Makela, Annikki


Interpreting phloem carbohydrate or xylem tissue carbon isotopic composition as measures of water-use efficiency or past tree productivity requires in-depth knowledge of the factors altering the isotopic composition within the pathway from ambient air to phloem contents and tree ring. One of least understood of these factors is mesophyll conductance (g(m)).We formulated a dynamic model describing the leaf photosynthetic pathway including seven alternative g(m) descriptions and a simple transport of sugars from foliage down the trunk. We parameterised the model for a boreal Scots pine stand and compared simulated g(m) responses with weather variations. We further compared the simulated delta C-13 of new photosynthates among the different g(m) descriptions and against measured phloem sugar delta C-13.Simulated g(m) estimates of the seven descriptions varied according to weather conditions, resulting in varying estimates of phloem delta C-13 during cold/moist and warm/dry periods. The model succeeded in predicting a drought response and a postdrought release in phloem sugar delta C-13 indicating suitability of the model for inverse prediction of leaf processes from phloem isotopic composition.We suggest short-interval phloem sampling during and after extreme weather conditions to distinguish between mesophyll conductance drivers for future model development.


C-13 discrimination; dynamic model; mesophyll conductance; photosynthesis; Pinus sylvestris; stable carbon isotopes

Published in

New Phytologist
2021, Volume: 229, number: 6, pages: 3141-3155