Interpretation of variation in the oxygen isotope composition of plant organic material (A18Op) has a number of exciting potential applications, from paleoclimatic reconstruction, through understanding plant and ecosystem carbon and water fluxes, to breeding for higher-yielding crop plants. Current understanding is summarized in models that predict variation in A18Op as a result of variation in the leaf evaporative environment, and in isotopic exchange between plant water and organic molecules. These models predict measured variation in AlsO of cellulose quite accurately, and should allow novel isotope techniques to be used to address a wide range of questions involving plant regulation of water loss.

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