Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 390, Issue 2, pp 451–463 | Cite as

Variation in the isotopic composition of zinc in the natural environment and the use of zinc isotopes in biogeosciences: a review

  • Christophe Cloquet
  • Jean Carignan
  • Moritz F. Lehmann
  • Frank Vanhaecke


Zinc (Zn) is a trace element that is, as a building block in various enzymes, of vital importance for all living organisms. Zn concentrations are widely determined in dietary, biological and environmental studies. Recent papers report on the first efforts to use stable Zn isotopes in environmental studies, and initial results point to significant Zn isotope fractionation during various biological and chemical processes, and thus highlight their potential as valuable biogeochemical tracers. In this article, we discuss the state-of-the-art analytical methods for isotopic analysis of Zn and the procedures used to obtain accurate Zn isotope ratio results. We then review recent applications of Zn isotope measurements in environmental and life sciences, emphasizing the mechanisms and causes responsible for observed natural variation in the isotopic composition of Zn. We first discuss the Zn isotope variability in extraterrestrial and geological samples. We then focus on biological processes inducing Zn isotope fractionation in plants, animals and humans, and we assess the potential of Zn isotope ratio determination for elucidating sources of atmospheric particles and contamination. Finally, we discuss possible impediments and limitations of the application of Zn isotopes in (geo-) environmental studies and provide an outlook regarding future directions of Zn isotope research.


Zn isotopes Isotopic variation Biogeosciences Source tracer Fractionation mechanisms 



C.C. and F.V. acknowledge the FWO-Vlaanderen for financial support under the form of the research project 3G066906. Marco Simona is acknowledged for providing sediment trap material from Lake Lugano. We thank Dominik Weiss and an anonymous reviewer for their fruitful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christophe Cloquet
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jean Carignan
    • 2
  • Moritz F. Lehmann
    • 3
  • Frank Vanhaecke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Analytical ChemistryGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.CRPG-CNRSVandoeuvre les NancyFrance
  3. 3.GEOTOP-UQAM-McGill, Université du Québec à MontréalMontrealCanada
  4. 4.CRPG-CNRSVandoeuvre les NancyFrance

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