3 years ago

Radiocarbon in ecology: Insights and perspectives from aquatic and terrestrial studies

Ricardo Fernandes, Thomas Larsen, Yusuke Yokoyama
Carbon is one of the most abundant elements in the biosphere, and a key element for understanding how consumer and resource relationships affect ecosystem functioning. To trace carbon sources, ecologists predominantly rely on stable carbon ratios but variable 13C baselines and diet-to-consumer offsets can lead to ambiguous results. To improve source specificity, ecologists are increasingly turning to radiocarbon (14C). Radiocarbon has a much greater dynamic range and specificity than its stable isotope counterpart because its residence time and carbon sources differ widely among the earth's carbon reservoirs. These source-specific properties make 14C ideally suited for assessing resource use by animals. In ecological research, 14C has been applied successfully (1) to assess allochthonous and autochthonous contributions to food webs, (2) to distinguish between contributions of recent and old resources to aquatic consumers, and (3) to characterize resource use among terrestrial consumers. While these applications show that 14C is a powerful and complementary tool to stable isotopes, great care should be taken in characterizing relevant 14C baselines in the animals’ environments. Such endeavours have traditionally been expensive owing to the high analytical costs of 14C; however, recent methodological advances are gradually making 14C more affordable and accessible for the average user. Advances in another field, Bayesian mixing modelling make it possible to increase the precision of model estimates by integrating multiple sources of information from 14C and stable isotopes to field observations. Given the recent analytical advances, it is now becoming feasible for many ecologists to embrace 14C as an additional source tracer. We suggest that such efforts will be particularly rewarding when combined with compound-specific stable isotope analyses because the information that can be drawn from both approaches are highly complementary. Moreover, the possibility of determining 14C of individual compounds can solve long-standing questions with regard to the origins and fate of particular dietary components. Taken together, these advances will expand the possibilities of accurately determine the origins and fate of carbon through food webs.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12851

You might also like
Discover & Discuss Important Research

Keeping up-to-date with research can feel impossible, with papers being published faster than you'll ever be able to read them. That's where Researcher comes in: we're simplifying discovery and making important discussions happen. With over 19,000 sources, including peer-reviewed journals, preprints, blogs, universities, podcasts and Live events across 10 research areas, you'll never miss what's important to you. It's like social media, but better. Oh, and we should mention - it's free.

  • Download from Google Play
  • Download from App Store
  • Download from AppInChina

Researcher displays publicly available abstracts and doesn’t host any full article content. If the content is open access, we will direct clicks from the abstracts to the publisher website and display the PDF copy on our platform. Clicks to view the full text will be directed to the publisher website, where only users with subscriptions or access through their institution are able to view the full article.