The use of stable isotope techniques in plant ecological research has grown steadily during the past two decades. This trend will continue as investigators realize that stable isotopes can serve as valuable nonradioactive tracers and nondestructive integrators of how plants today and in the past have interacted with and responded to their abiotic and biotic environments. At the center of nearly all plant ecological research which has made use of stable isotope methods are the notions of interactions and the resources that mediate or influence them. Our review, therefore, highlights recent advances in plant ecology that have embraced these notions, particularly at different spatial and temporal scales. Specifically, we review how isotope measurements associated with the critical plant resources carbon, water, and nitrogen have helped deepen our understanding of plant-resource acquisition, plant interactions with other organisms, and the role of plants in ecosystem studies. Where possible we also introduce how stable isotope information has provided insights into plant ecological research being done in a paleontological context. Progress in our understanding of plants in natural environments has shown that the future of plant ecological research will continue to see some of its greatest advances when stable isotope methods are applied.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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