Ecology and Environmental Sciences
Stable isotope signatures can be used as naturally present tracers to study systems where other techniques would either be impractical or would simply not work. For example, it may be possible (although difficult) to trace the source of a river by using dyes but dyes are of no use for tracing the consumption of water by different organisms in a food chain.
Stable isotope signatures therefore provide a powerful tool for tackling many environmentally important questions:
- The identification of primary and secondary food sources, elucidating predator/prey relationships and constructing food webs.
- Tracing nutrient uptake by plants
- Measuring environmental stressors by monitoring plant uptake of carbon dioxide and/or water.
- Identifying water transport pathways through an ecosystem.
These questions are not merely academic. Tracing the nutrient uptakes of plants allows agronomists to optimise irrigation and fertilizer application to crops. Measuring environmental stressors helps plant scientists to identify particularly suitable crop varieties for growing in different climatic conditions. The study of food webs helps scientists to identify natural predators that can control a range of pests (from insects to microorganisms) in farming systems. Utilising natural predators is a key method for reducing farmer reliance on agrochemicals. This is particularly important in making farming profitable for smallholders in poorer countries but in the developed world, many classes of agrochemical are being phased out due to environmental concerns.
At Mylnefield Isotope Signatures we have excellent facilities and world class experience in applying stable isotope analysis to the environmental sciences.
- A dedicated instrument for analysing carbon and oxygen isotopes of gaseous carbon dioxide samples, for example carbon dioxide released from water samples and inorganic minerals.
- Oxygen isotope analysis from phosphates, nitrates and sulfates.
- A dedicated instrument for hydrogen and oxygen isotope analysis of water samples.
- Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis from a wide range of biological samples. We can handle samples down to 0.2mg.
- Compound specific analysis of carbon and hydrogen isotopes for detailed profiling of biological samples.
Mylnefield Isotope Signatures would be delighted to advise you on whether stable isotope analysis would solve your environmental science needs and to develop analytical procedures tailored to your specific needs.