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Stable Isotope Techniques in the Study of Biological Processes and Functioning of Ecosystems

Volume 40 of the series Current Plant Science and Biotechnology in Agriculture pp 1-18

Fundamentals of Stable Isotope Chemistry and Measurement

  • Todd E. DawsonAffiliated withCenter for Stable Isotope Biogeochemisty, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California — Berkeley
  • , Paul D. BrooksAffiliated withCenter for Stable Isotope Biogeochemisty, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California — BerkeleyDepartment of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California — Berkeley

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Abstract

Understanding the power of stable isotopes in research requires general knowledge of the fundamental principles of stable isotope chemistry as well as, more specifically, how the ratios of biologically relevant lighter stable isotopes of H, C, N, O, and S in the biosphere are measured using modern isotope ratio mass spectrometers (IRMS). Here, we provide a primer to these topics. The chapter serves as a springboard to the following chapters in this book. We make no attempt to be comprehensive. For more detailed reading on stable isotope chemistry or geochemistry we encourage readers to see treatments by Criss (1999), Hoefs (1997), Faure (1986) or Gat and Gonfiantini (1981). For in-depth discussions on particular topics we refer you to recent works by Kendall and McDonnell (1998; hydrology), Griffiths (1998; biology, ecology, atmospheric science, biogeochemistry), Clark and Fritz (1997; hydrogeology), Boutton and Yamasaki (1996; soils), Lajtha and Michener (1994; environmental sciences), Ehleringer et al. (1993; plant ecophysiology) and Rundel et al. (1989; ecology).

Key words

stable isotope ratio fractionation nuclide isotope ratio mass spectrometer isotope chemistry