Ternary effects on the gas exchange of isotopologues of carbon dioxide

Plant Cell Environ. 2012 Jul;35(7):1221-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3040.2012.02484.x. Epub 2012 Feb 21.


The ternary effects of transpiration rate on the rate of assimilation of carbon dioxide through stomata, and on the calculation of the intercellular concentration of carbon dioxide, are now included in standard gas exchange studies. However, the equations for carbon isotope discrimination and for the exchange of oxygen isotopologues of carbon dioxide ignore ternary effects. Here we introduce equations to take them into account. The ternary effect is greatest when the leaf-to-air vapour mole fraction difference is greatest, and its impact is greatest on parameters derived by difference, such as the mesophyll resistance to CO(2) assimilation, r(m) . We show that the mesophyll resistance to CO(2) assimilation has been underestimated in the past. The impact is also large when there is a large difference in isotopic composition between the CO(2) inside the leaf and that in the air. We show that this partially reconciles estimates of the oxygen isotopic composition of CO(2) in the chloroplast and mitochondria in the light and in the dark, with values close to equilibrium with the estimated oxygen isotopic composition of water at the sites of evaporation within the leaf.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism*
  • Carbon Isotopes / analysis
  • Mesophyll Cells / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Oxygen Isotopes / analysis
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plant Leaves / physiology*
  • Plant Transpiration*
  • Ricinus / physiology


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Oxygen Isotopes
  • Carbon Dioxide