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The elements Hydrogen (H), Carbon (C), and Oxygen (O) are the building blocks for water, organisms, and some rocks. In addition, Nitrogen (N) is an important element in biological systems. An understanding of the biogeochemical cycling of these elements provides insight into important eco- and earth-system processes. Each of these elements has several isotopes; atoms with the same numbers of protons and electrons, but with different numbers of neutrons. Therefore isotopes of elements differ in mass and are often fractionated from one another by biological, physical, or chemical processes. These fractionations result in natural variations in the isotopic compositions of compounds throughout the environment. Stable Isotope BioGeoChemistry is the study of these variations and their application to understanding problems in Environmental Studies, Ecology, Geology, Hydrology, Biology, and other fields.
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