Carbon isotope composition of plants along altitudinal gradient and its relationship to environmental factors on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
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Distribution pattern of [delta][^13]C values of plateau plants and their responses to environment along altitudinal gradients were investigated. In the growing season of 2003 (June-August), stable carbon isotope ratios ([delta][^13]C) of 174 plant samples belonging to 89 species of 20 families and 58 genera along the gradient 2800-4400 m (above sea level) was studied in six sites on the east edge of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The results indicated that the range of [delta][^13]C values of plants is narrow from -30.2[per mil] to -25.2[per mil], which means that none of the species examined belonged to C photosynthetic pathway and all of these species performed C photosynthetic pathway. The average [delta][^13]C values of plants at 6 sites were positively correlated to altitude (r = 0.974, P <0.01). The results revealed that site-averaged [delta][^13]C values were negatively correlated with temperature (r = 0.907, P <0.05) as well as CO partial pressure (r = 0.940, P <0.01). The combination of these two factors account for 80% of the variation of [delta][^13]C values (r[^2] = 0.859, P <0.01). Varying precipitation with increasing altitude does not affect the plant [delta][^13]C values (r = 0.469, P> 0.05) as well as the sunlight duration(r = 0.630, P> 0.05).
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