The use of stable
isotope analysis is central to environmental studies, providing dating methods,
tracers, rate information, and fingerprints for biological, ecological and
chemical processes in almost every setting. To this end, stable isotopes of
several elements have been applied in terrestrial, atmospheric, and aquatic
studies, both in current and ancient environments rendering powerful tracers
and rate monitors. It has become an essential tool for ecosystem research, clearly
designating nutrient and molecule sources, providing quantitative information
using mixing models and identifying physical and chemical processes on the
turnover rates of processes both at organismal and ecosystem level. Recent
advances in stable isotope analysis have contributed greatly to our
understanding of niche partitioning in both plants and animals;
compound-specific isotope analysis has proved an important route towards
discerning trophic ecology and the fate of molecules in current and past environments.
The applications of stable isotope analysis are multifold and their importance
to environmental studies has become vital. Clearly, this tool will continue to
be indispensable in several fields of research, including studies of
environmental health (pollution and contamination), environmental management,
climate change, (bio)geochemistry, archaeology, paleontology and ecology.
Besides further utilization of existing methodologies, novel applications will
continue to be established. These will likely include discovering new isotopic
and trace element characteristics of living and non-living things, but also
expounding isotopic variations that are typical characteristics of various
unique processes. The Stable Isotope Group of the University of Konstanz
organized the Summer School 2018 on Isotope Ecology. 42 participants and 11
invited speakers interacted for three days in April discussing their projects
and ideas on the topic of the Summer School ‘What can we learn from the past
into the future? Stable isotopes in ancient and contemporary environments’.
Several papers in issues 2 and 4 (volume 55) of the journal Isotopes in
Environmental and Health Studies seek to embrace the extent of the application
of stable isotope analysis related to various environmental studies including
routine and recent advances. An example is the investigation by Funes et al. on
trawling activities altering the trophic structure of fish communities
affecting long-term modifications of trophic level change in the marine environment
. Paleo-diet and drinking water are in the focus of stable isotope analyses
from teeth of white-tailed deers presented by Rivera-Araya et al.  shining a
light on historic living conditions. Meier-Augenstein and Schimmelmann
submitted a guide for decent exertion of stable isotope reference materials,
already published in issue 2 and highly cited . Two further articles from
the Konstanz Summer School 2018 will still follow in volume 55.
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