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Plant Physiol. 1979 Jan;63(1):201-5.

Effect of water regime on carbon isotope composition of lichens.

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  • 1Department of Botany, The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.


delta(13)C values of the lichens Ramalina duriaei and Teloschistes villosus collected in their natural habitat were repeatedly measured during 2 years. Results show variations in the stable carbon isotope ratios ((13)C/(12)C). Such variations are correlated to the seasonal rainfall, i.e. low values of delta(13)C of the lichens during the winter and high values of delta(13)C during the dry summer. Relatively low delta(13)C values were obtained also in laboratory experiments with lichens grown under controlled humid conditions and in lichens collected from humid habitats.The variations in carbon isotopes were associated with quantitative metabolic changes. Under humid conditions an increase was obtained in the total amount of the extracted water-soluble fraction of the plant tissues as well as in the relative content of soluble carbohydrates.Analysis of the possible factors which may cause such variations indicates that the quantity of precipitation and the exposure time to high humidity were the main environmental factors causing seasonal variations in the delta(13)C values of the lichens. Such variations are dependent mainly on enzymic reactions and are probably less influenced by purely physicochemical processes. In view of the data presented here the balance between carboxylation and decarboxylation reactions seems to be the major factor for the observed seasonal differences. Winter accumulation of (12)C enriched components causes an over-all decrease in delta(13)C. During the summer, those storage materials are respired with concomitant increase in the delta(13)C of the residual plant material.

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