Stable isotopes: an integrator of environmental science, biogeochemistry, ecology, and physiology

The development and ongoing advances in stable isotope chemistry and their applications in ecology in past decades have lead to marked advances in being able to link environmental drivers of organismal function to biogeochemical, hydrological and ecosystem processes. Our group has had the privilege to help lead the way in both developing and then using new stable isotope methods that are permitting us to merge our knowledge on plant physiological responses to the environment with ecosystem-scale processes and literally ‘scale’ functional information from the plant to higher levels of ecological organization.

The isotope measurements are used either within a biophysical or process modeling framework to permit the scaling but then to also verify that what the model tells us should be happening is in fact true. We are using this approach to help us understand what controls the key biogeochemical cycles of C, N and water, and what roles the plants play in these cycles. Such an approach has emerged helped evolve the traditional fields of plant ecology and physiology into new directions that some now call “ecosystem physiology”.

People’s research related to this theme: