iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Testing a dual isotope model to track carbon and water gas exchanges in a Mediterranean forest

F Ripullone (1)   , MR Guerrieri (1), M Saurer (2), R Siegwolf (2), M Jäggi (2), R Guarini (1), F Magnani (3)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 59-66 (2009)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor0491-002
Published: Mar 18, 2009 - Copyright © 2009 SISEF

Research Articles

Due to climate change, drier summers have been observed over the last ten years in Mediterranean areas. Increasing drought levels may have a different weight in influencing the stomatal versus photosynthetic activity of forests, altering the water-use efficiency (i.e., WUE, the amount of carbon gain per water lost) and, consequently, the global carbon balance. By combining leaf gas exchanges and leaf carbon/oxygen isotope measurements, we tested under Mediterranean conditions a semi-quantitative dual isotope model to track adjustments in stomatal conductance (gs) and maximum CO2 assimilation at saturating light (Amax) in response to changes in air and soil water availability. The experiment was established at Allumiere site (Rome, Italy) over the course of two consecutive years. There, we modified the amount of precipitation reaching the soil on water depleted (D) and watered (W) replicate plots (~100 m2) of an Arbutus unedo L. forest using a system of rain gutters and sprinklers, respectively. Changes in soil water availability affected gs and Amax in parallel. As an application of the model, we found that, in response to reduced air and soil water availability, constant carbon (δ13C) and increasing oxygen (δ18O) isotope values were consistent with a parallel decline of either gs and Amax. As a result of parallel decline, WUE did not differ or only slightly differed between treatments, in contrast with most of the studies that found a wide-spread increase of WUE in response to enhanced drought. This study highlights the potentiality of the dual isotope model to provide insights of forest ecosystem functioning in Mediterranean environments.


Carbon assimilation, Drought, Isotope model, Arbutus unedo, Stomatal conductance, Water-use efficiency

Authors’ address

F Ripullone
MR Guerrieri
R Guarini
Dept. of Crop System, Forestry and Environmental Sciences, University of Basilicata (Italy)
M Saurer
R Siegwolf
M Jäggi
Paul Scherrer Institut, Laboratory of Atmospheric Chemistry, Stable Isotope and Ecosystem Fluxes (Switzerland)
F Magnani
Dept. of Plant Cultivation, University of Bologna (Italy)

Corresponding author


Ripullone F, Guerrieri MR, Saurer M, Siegwolf R, Jäggi M, Guarini R, Magnani F (2009). Testing a dual isotope model to track carbon and water gas exchanges in a Mediterranean forest. iForest 2: 59-66. - doi: 10.3832/ifor0491-002

Academic Editor

Roberto Tognetti

Paper history

Received: Oct 13, 2008
Accepted: Feb 20, 2009

First online: Mar 18, 2009
Publication Date: Mar 18, 2009
Publication Time: 0.87 months

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