Studies of modern and ancient buried wood show that there is a linear correlation between carbohydrate content and the stable carbon isotope composition as carbohydrates are preferentially degraded during early diagenesis. As the carbohydrate content decreases, the ??13C value of the degraded wood decreases 1 to 2 per mil, approaching the value of the residual lignin. These results indicate that carbohydrate degradation products are lost and not incorporated into the aromatic structure as lignin is selectively preserved during early diagenesis of wood. These results also indicate that attempts to quantify terrestrial inputs to modern sedimentary organic matter based on ??13C values should consider the possibility of a 1 to 2 per mil decrease in the ??13C value of degraded wood. ?? 1987.