Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2023, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (1): 25-40.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2021.0479

Special Issue: 稳定同位素生态学

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A review of stable hydrogen and oxygen isotopic offset in plant water source research

LEI Zi-Ran1, JIA Guo-Dong1,2,*(), YU Xin-Xiao1,2, LIU Zi-He1   

  1. 1School of Soil and Water Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
    2Key Laboratory of National Forestry and Grassland Administration on Soil and Water Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
  • Received:2021-12-16 Accepted:2022-04-13 Online:2023-01-20 Published:2022-06-09
  • Contact: *JIA Guo-Dong(
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41877152)


Stable hydrogen and oxygen isotope analysis provides an important tool for calculating plant root water uptake amount, determining the contribution to plant water source, and evaluating plant water use strategy, and is thus of great relevance to ecohydrological studies with respect to exploration of the water transmission mechanism of the atmosphere-vegetation-soil system. However, the stable hydrogen and oxygen isotope ratios (δ2H and δ18O) offset between soil and xylem water can cause inconsistency in the calculated contribution rate of plant water source, but the reasons for differences in hydrogen and oxygen isotope results are unclear. In this review, we first briefly introduced the phenomenon of hydrogen-oxygen stable isotope ratio offset; secondly, the framework was constructed along the water transport path of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. We systematically expounded the natural effects of δ2H and δ18O offset in three interfaces (plant-atmosphere interface, soil-atmosphere interface, and root-soil interface) and two spaces (plant and soil layer). At the same time, we summarized the methodological artifacts that are associated with soil and xylem sample extraction and δ2H and δ18O determination technologies. Finally, we identify main knowledge uncertainties according to the existing research progress; and highlight three areas that deserve future research attention: the acquisition of isotope spatiotemporal data, the cause of micro-scale isotope offset, and the optimization of extraction and determination technology.

Key words: stable hydrogen and oxygen isotopes, offset, fractionation, soil-plant-atmosphere continuum, water transportation