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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 472 - Feature article
New mixing-model approaches strengthen the use of stable isotope tracers for solving environmental problems. Figure: B. Fry

Fry B


Alternative approaches for solving underdetermined isotope mixing problems


Many marine ecologists use stable isotopes to trace flows of organic matter in natural systems. But tracer results need thoughtful interpretation when there are several alternative ways that the sources can mix and combine to give the observed isotope distributions. This review shows how to locate the most robust source solutions among the alternatives, using a two-track approach with simple graphs and sophisticated statistical programming. The new approach is illustrated with theoretical diagrams and also with a published study of mangrove creeks and crabs impacted by effluents from a shrimp farming area in Thailand. The article concludes with several practical steps to help ecologists apply this two-track approach.


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