Special Issue "Stable Isotopes in Ecological Research"

A special issue of Diversity (ISSN 1424-2818).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Kent A. Hatch

Long Island University, Department of Biology, New York, United States
Website | E-Mail

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The use of stable isotope analysis in ecology has grown exponentially over the past 20 years. A quick search on Scopus using the key words, “stable isotope” and “ecology” yields 8 papers for 1997, but 406 in 2017. Of course, many more papers using stable isotopes in ecology-related studies were published, but did not include these exact key words. However, this simple measure represents an increase of 50-fold.

Ecological applications of stable isotopes were pioneered by geochemists in studies of global element cycles and past climatic conditions. Later, work using stable isotopes in studies of photosynthesis in plants, diet and trophic levels in animals was pioneered in the 1980s and in migration in the 1990s. Stable isotopes are important to understanding how environmental, genetic, and morphological factors combine to influence water and gas exchange in plants, trace the flow of nutrients through individual organisms from one ecosystem to another. Stable isotope analysis is critical to our understanding of paleoecology and in the past 10-15 years major advances in mixing models have allowed more precise understandings of past and present diets of animals. More recently, stable isotope analysis has contributed greatly to our understanding of niche partitioning in plants and animals, compound-specific isotope analysis has proved an important tool in trophic ecology and promises to advance our understand of micropollutants in the environment. The applications of stable isotope analysis are many and varied and their importance to ecological studies has become indispensable.

This special issue seeks to address the breadth of the application of stable isotope analysis to all types of ecological questions as well as to highlight recent advances in the use of stable isotopes in ecology.

Dr. Kent A. Hatch
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle The Effects of Temperature on the Turnover of δ18O and δD in Juvenile Corn Snakes (Elaphe guttata): A Novel Study with Ecological Implications
Diversity 2019, 11(2), 19; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11020019
Received: 30 November 2018 / Revised: 24 January 2019 / Accepted: 27 January 2019 / Published: 30 January 2019
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Abstract
The use of natural variation in stable isotope ratios continues to be used in ecological studies without proper validation through laboratory studies. This study tested the effects of temperature, time, and turnover in the scales of juvenile corn snakes (Elaphe guttata) [...] Read more.
The use of natural variation in stable isotope ratios continues to be used in ecological studies without proper validation through laboratory studies. This study tested the effects of temperature, time, and turnover in the scales of juvenile corn snakes (Elaphe guttata) in a controlled, laboratory environment. Snakes were assigned to four treatment groups (24 °C, 27 °C, 30 °C, and freely thermoregulating), and one snake from each group was sacrificed weekly. Scales from each snake were washed, dried, and analyzed for δD and δ18O at the Stable Isotope Research Facility for Environmental Research at the University of Utah. The effects of temperature on the turnover of tissues was only significant when comparing the thermoregulating group to the pooled treatment groups (24 °C, 27 °C, and 30 °C) in the δ18O of scales (p = 0.006). After normalizing data on the δD and δ18O using percent change for comparison, δ18O appeared to be turning over at a faster rate than δD as indicated by an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) test for homogeneity of slopes (F1,53 = 69.7, p < 0.001). With further testing of assumptions, a modification of our methods could provide information on the composition of drinking water sources in a species that switches between two isotopically distinct sources, such as during seasonal shifts in habitat or migration, and/or estimates of long-term field metabolic rates based on the turnover of these isotopes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Stable Isotopes in Ecological Research)
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Open AccessArticle Metabolic Fates of Evening Crop-Stored Sugar in Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris)
Diversity 2019, 11(1), 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11010009
Received: 30 November 2018 / Revised: 27 December 2018 / Accepted: 5 January 2019 / Published: 15 January 2019
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Abstract
During the day, hummingbirds quickly metabolize floral nectar to fuel high metabolic demands, but are unable to feed at night. Though stored fat is the primary nocturnal metabolic fuel, it has been suggested that hummingbirds store nectar in their crop to offset fat [...] Read more.
During the day, hummingbirds quickly metabolize floral nectar to fuel high metabolic demands, but are unable to feed at night. Though stored fat is the primary nocturnal metabolic fuel, it has been suggested that hummingbirds store nectar in their crop to offset fat expenditure in the night or to directly fuel their first foraging trip in the morning. We examine the use of crop-stored sugar in the nocturnal energy budget of ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) using respirometry and 13C stable isotope analysis. Hummingbirds were fed a 13C-enriched sugar solution before lights-out and held in respirometry chambers overnight without food. Respirometry results indicate that the hummingbirds metabolized the sugar in the evening meal in less than 2 h, and subsequently primarily catabolized fat. Breath stable isotope signatures provide the key insight that the hummingbirds converted a substantial portion of an evening meal to fats, which they later catabolized to support their overnight metabolism and spare endogenous energy stores. These results show that the value of a hummingbird’s evening meal depends on how much of this energy was converted to fat. Furthermore, this suggests that evening hyperphagia is an important energy maximization strategy, especially during energetically expensive periods such as migration or incubation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Stable Isotopes in Ecological Research)
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Review

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Open AccessReview A Guide to Using Compound-Specific Stable Isotope Analysis to Study the Fates of Molecules in Organisms and Ecosystems
Diversity 2019, 11(1), 8; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11010008
Received: 5 December 2018 / Revised: 2 January 2019 / Accepted: 7 January 2019 / Published: 11 January 2019
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Abstract
The measurement of stable isotopes in ‘bulk’ animal and plant tissues (e.g., muscle or leaf) has become an important tool for studies of functional diversity from organismal to continental scales. In consumers, isotope values reflect their diet, trophic position, physiological state, and geographic [...] Read more.
The measurement of stable isotopes in ‘bulk’ animal and plant tissues (e.g., muscle or leaf) has become an important tool for studies of functional diversity from organismal to continental scales. In consumers, isotope values reflect their diet, trophic position, physiological state, and geographic location. However, interpretation of bulk tissue isotope values can be confounded by variation in primary producer baseline values and by overlapping values among potential food items. To resolve these issues, biologists increasingly use compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA), in which the isotope values of monomers that constitute a macromolecule (e.g., amino acids in protein) are measured. In this review, we provide the theoretical underpinnings for CSIA, summarize its methodology and recent applications, and identify future research directions. The key principle is that some monomers are reliably routed directly from the diet into animal tissue, whereas others are biochemically transformed during assimilation. As a result, CSIA of consumer tissue simultaneously provides information about an animal’s nutrient sources (e.g., food items or contributions from gut microbes) and its physiology (e.g., nitrogen excretion mode). In combination, these data clarify many of the confounding issues in bulk analysis and enable novel precision for tracing nutrient and energy flow within and among organisms and ecosystems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Stable Isotopes in Ecological Research)
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