Three types of alpine plant species, Carex montis-everestii, Quercus aquifolioides and Stipa capillacea, along an altitudinal gradient of 3005–5025 m on the Tibetan Plateau, were chosen to test the generality of the hypothesis that foliar carbon isotope composition (δ13C) of C3 plants increases significantly with altitude and to determine climate drivers shaping its altitudinal pattern. Temperature and relative humidity showed significantly negative correlations with altitude; however, precipitation and soil water potential remained unchanged with altitude. Foliar δ13C of C. montis-everestii, Q. aquifolioides, S. capillacea alone or combined together did not significantly increase with altitude, which does not support the leading hypothesis of increased foliar δ13C with altitude. There was no difference in foliar δ13C among all three species. Multi-factor correlation analyses showed that temperature, precipitation and relative humidity alone did not affect foliar δ13C of C. montis-everestii and S. capillacea, but conferred significant effects on foliar δ13C of Q. aquifolioides.
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Vol. 65 • No. 2