Stable delta N-15 and delta C-13 isotope ratios in aquatic ecosystems

  • Wada E
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Abstract

In the past 20 years, rapid progress in stable isotope (SI) studies has allowed scientists to observe natural ecosystems from entirely new perspectives. This report addresses the fundamental concepts underlying the use of the SI ratio. The unique characteristics of the SI ratio make it an interdisciplinary parameter that acts as a chemical fingerprint of biogenic substances and provides a key to the world of isotopomers. Variations in SI ratios of biogenic substances depend on the isotopic compositions of reactants, the pathways and kinetic modes of reaction dynamics, and the physicochemical conditions. In fact, every biogenic material has its own isotopic composition, its "dynamic SI fingerprint", which is governed by its function and position in the material flow. For example, the relative SI. ratio in biota is determined by dietary lifestyle, e.g., the modes of drinking, eating, and excreting, and appears highly regular due to the physicochemical differences of isotopomers. Our primary goal here is to elucidate the general principals of isotope partitioning in major biophilic elements in molecules, biogenic materials, and ecosystems (Wada, E. et al., 1995). To this end, the nitrogen and carbon SI distribution ratios (delta N-15 and delta C-13, respectively) are used to examine materials cycling, food web structures, and their variability in various kinds of watershed-including aquatic ecosystems to elucidate an "isotopically ordered world".

Author-supplied keywords

  • application to aquatic ecosystems
  • food web
  • food-web
  • fundamental concept of stable isotope method
  • lake biwa
  • n stable isotope ratios
  • n-15
  • natural c
  • nitrogen
  • ocean

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Authors

  • E Wada

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