Journal Highlights

What Drives Carbon Isotope Fractionation by the Terrestrial Biosphere?

Commentary—

During photosynthesis, terrestrial plants preferentially assimilate the lighter and much more abundant form of carbon, 12C, which accounts for roughly 99% of naturally occurring forms of this element. This photosynthetic preference for lighter carbon is driven principally by differences in molecular diffusion of carbon dioxide with differing 13C/12C across stomatal pores on leaves, followed by differences in carboxylation rates by the Rubisco enzyme that is central to the process of photosynthesis. As a result of these slight preferences, which work out to about a 2% difference in the fixation rates of 12CO2 versus 13CO2 by C3 vegetation, plant tissues are depleted in the heavier form of carbon (13C) relative to atmospheric CO2. More…

-- Christopher Still and Bharat Rastogi,