Isotopic labelling experiments were conducted to assess relationships among (13)C of recently assimilated carbon (deltaC(A)), foliage respiration (deltaC(F)), soluble carbohydrate (deltaC(SC)), leaf waxes (deltaC(LW)) and bulk organic matter (deltaC(OM)). Slash pine, sweetgum and maize were grown under (13)C depleted CO(2) to label biomass and then placed under ambient conditions to monitor the loss of label. In pine and sweetgum, deltaC(F) of labelled plants (approximately -44 and -35 per thousand, respectively) rapidly approached control values but remained depleted by approximately 4-6 per thousand after 3-4 months. For these tree species, no or minimal label was lost from deltaC(SC), deltaC(LW) and deltaC(OM) during the observation periods. deltaC(F) and deltaC(SC) of labelled maize plants rapidly changed and were indistinguishable from controls after 1 month, while deltaC(LW) and deltaC(OM) more slowly approached control values and remained depleted by 2-6 per thousand. Changes in deltaC(F) in slash pine and sweetgum fit a two-pool exponential model, with the fast turnover metabolic pool (approximately 3-4 d half-life) constituting only 1-2% of the total. In maize, change in deltaC(F) fits a single pool model with a half-life of 6.4 d. The (13)C of foliage respiration and biochemical pools reflect temporally integrated values of deltaC(A), with change in isotopic composition dampened by the size of metabolic carbon reserves and turnover rates.