ANSTO environmental researchers use nuclear and isotopic techniques to assess the impact of climate and humans on Australia's aquatic ecosystems.
Aquatic ecosystems include freshwater and coastal sites, where there is a dynamic relationship between atmosphere, soil, plants and organisms.
Nuclear and isotopic techniques, such as the use of radioisotopes, stable isotope ratios and live organism radiotracing, are particularly useful in the study of aquatic ecosystems.
The measurement of stable isotope ratios allows researchers to determine relationships in the food chain, track changes in ecosystems and understand the cycling of nutrients and pollutants through an aquatic ecosystem.
The isotopic composition of a living organism is a reflection of dietary sources. Isotopic compositions reveal change in response to changing environmental conditions., such as water availability, habitat modification, incursions of invasive species or an increase in pollutants.
Carbon sequestration and trophic dynamics within a food web can be quantified using stable isotope methods.
They can also be used to determine the levels of transpiration and evaporation in wetland vegetation, floodwater infiltration and the depth of water sources for wetland plants.