Exploring the potential of Δ17O in CO2 for determining mesophyll conductance

Getachew Agmuas Adnew*, Thijs L. Pons, Gerbrand Koren, Wouter Peters, Thomas Röckmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Mesophyll conductance to CO2 from the intercellular air space to the CO2–H2O exchange site has been estimated using δ18O measurements (gm18). However, the gm18 estimates are affected by the uncertainties in the δ18O of leaf water where the CO2–H2O exchange takes place and the degree of equilibration between CO2 and H2O. We show that measurements of Δ17O (i.e. Δ17O = δ17O − 0.528 × δ18O) can provide independent constraints on gm (gmΔ17) and that these gm estimates are less affected by fractionation processes during gas exchange. The gm calculations are applied to combined measurements of δ18O and Δ17O, and gas exchange in two C3 species, sunflower (Helianthus annuus L. cv. ‘sunny’) and ivy (Hedera hibernica L.), and the C4 species maize (Zea mays). The gm18 and gmΔ17 estimates agree within the combined errors (P-value, 0.876). Both approaches are associated with large errors when the isotopic composition in the intercellular air space becomes close to the CO2–H2O exchange site. Although variations in Δ17O are low, it can be measured with much higher precision compared with δ18O. Measuring gmΔ17 has a few advantages compared with gm18: (i) it is less sensitive to uncertainty in the isotopic composition of leaf water at the isotope exchange site and (ii) the relative change in the gm due to an assumed error in the equilibration fraction θeq is lower for gmΔ17 compared with gm18. Thus, using Δ17O can complement and improve the gm estimates in settings where the δ18O of leaf water varies strongly, affecting the δ18O (CO2) difference between the intercellular air space and the CO2–H2O exchange site.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1234-1253
Number of pages20
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


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