Carbon isotopes in functional soil ecology

Trends Ecol Evol. 2004 Mar;19(3):148-54. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2003.12.003.


Soil is an integral part of terrestrial ecosystems. Many soil ecologists interested in soil ecosystem functioning rely, to some degree, on stable isotope methodologies. The study of the natural abundance of carbon isotopes, especially (13)C but also (14)C, in the environment and the use of stable carbon isotope tracers have proved very useful in investigating the soil carbon cycle and soil trophic relationships. Recent methodological and technical advances have greatly extended the possibilities for the application of stable carbon isotopes to terrestrial ecology and have vastly improved our knowledge of belowground ecosystem functioning and will continue to do so. A better understanding of soil processes is invaluable in predicting the future impacts of global environmental change on terrestrial ecosystems.