Seasonal transfer of oxygen isotopes from precipitation and soil to the tree ring: Source water versus needle water enrichment

Kerstin Treydte, Sonja Boda, Elisabeth Graf Pannatier, Patrick Fonti, David Frank, Bastian Ullrich, Matthias Saurer, Rolf Siegwolf, Giovanna Battipaglia, Willy Werner, Arthur Gessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


For accurate interpretation of oxygen isotopes in tree rings (δ18O), it is necessary to disentangle the mechanisms underlying the variations in the tree's internal water cycle and to understand the transfer of source versus leaf water δ18O to phloem sugars and stem wood. We studied the seasonal transfer of oxygen isotopes from precipitation and soil water through the xylem, needles and phloem to the tree rings of Larix decidua at two alpine sites in the Lötschental (Switzerland). Weekly resolved δ18O records of precipitation, soil water, xylem and needle water, phloem organic matter and tree rings were developed. Week-to-week variations in needle-water 18O enrichment were strongly controlled by weather conditions during the growing season. These short-term variations were, however, not significantly fingerprinted in tree-ring δ18O. Instead, seasonal trends in tree-ring δ18O predominantly mirrored trends in the source water, including recent precipitation and soil water pools. Modelling results support these findings: seasonal tree-ring δ18O variations are captured best when the week-to-week variations of the leaf water signal are suppressed. Our results suggest that climate signals in tree-ring δ18O variations should be strongest at temperate sites with humid conditions and precipitation maxima during the growing season.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)772-783
Number of pages12
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Dendroecology
  • Larix decidua
  • Leaf water enrichment
  • Oxygen isotopes
  • Phloem
  • Tree line
  • Tree physiology
  • Xylem water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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