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Complexities of nitrogen isotope biogeochemistry in plant-soil systems: implications for the study of ancient agricultural and animal management practices.

Szpak P - Front Plant Sci (2014)

Bottom Line: This paper discusses the importance of understanding nitrogen dynamics in ancient contexts, and highlights several key areas of archaeology where a more detailed understanding of these processes may enable us to answer some fundamental questions.The paucity of plant material in ancient deposits necessitates that these issues are addressed primarily through the isotopic analysis of skeletal material rather than the plants themselves, but the interpretation of these data hinges on a thorough understanding of the underlying biogeochemical processes in plant-soil systems.Building on studies conducted in modern ecosystems and under controlled conditions, these processes are reviewed, and their relevance discussed for ancient contexts.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC, Canada.

ABSTRACT
Nitrogen isotopic studies have the potential to shed light on the structure of ancient ecosystems, agropastoral regimes, and human-environment interactions. Until relatively recently, however, little attention was paid to the complexities of nitrogen transformations in ancient plant-soil systems and their potential impact on plant and animal tissue nitrogen isotopic compositions. This paper discusses the importance of understanding nitrogen dynamics in ancient contexts, and highlights several key areas of archaeology where a more detailed understanding of these processes may enable us to answer some fundamental questions. This paper explores two larger themes that are prominent in archaeological studies using stable nitrogen isotope analysis: (1) agricultural practices (use of animal fertilizers, burning of vegetation or shifting cultivation, and tillage) and (2) animal domestication and husbandry (grazing intensity/stocking rate and the foddering of domestic animals with cultigens). The paucity of plant material in ancient deposits necessitates that these issues are addressed primarily through the isotopic analysis of skeletal material rather than the plants themselves, but the interpretation of these data hinges on a thorough understanding of the underlying biogeochemical processes in plant-soil systems. Building on studies conducted in modern ecosystems and under controlled conditions, these processes are reviewed, and their relevance discussed for ancient contexts.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Number of papers published in archaeology and anthropology journals utilizing isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Data presented in this figure were generated using a simple keyword search of archaeology and anthropology journals indexed by Scopus.
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Figure 1: Number of papers published in archaeology and anthropology journals utilizing isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Data presented in this figure were generated using a simple keyword search of archaeology and anthropology journals indexed by Scopus.

Mentions: Since the early 1980s, stable isotope analysis has become an extremely effective and prevalent tool for the reconstruction of the diet and ecology of human and animal species in archaeological and paleontological contexts. Stable isotope analysis is now widely used in areas of study such as foraging ecology of extinct species, large-scale shifts in ecosystems due to natural and anthropogenic processes, issues surrounding animal domestication and management, weaning behavior in past populations, agricultural practices, and the diet of prehistoric human populations in the most general sense (Schwarcz et al., 2010; Clementz, 2012). The number of archaeological studies that have used stable isotope analysis has been steadily increasing (Figure 1), but all too often the interpretations of these data rely only on the fundamental isotopic relationships established early on such as the differences between C3 and C4 plants or marine and terrestrial foods (DeNiro and Epstein, 1978, 1981; Schoeninger and DeNiro, 1984).


Complexities of nitrogen isotope biogeochemistry in plant-soil systems: implications for the study of ancient agricultural and animal management practices.

Szpak P - Front Plant Sci (2014)

Number of papers published in archaeology and anthropology journals utilizing isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Data presented in this figure were generated using a simple keyword search of archaeology and anthropology journals indexed by Scopus.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4066317&req=5

Figure 1: Number of papers published in archaeology and anthropology journals utilizing isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Data presented in this figure were generated using a simple keyword search of archaeology and anthropology journals indexed by Scopus.
Mentions: Since the early 1980s, stable isotope analysis has become an extremely effective and prevalent tool for the reconstruction of the diet and ecology of human and animal species in archaeological and paleontological contexts. Stable isotope analysis is now widely used in areas of study such as foraging ecology of extinct species, large-scale shifts in ecosystems due to natural and anthropogenic processes, issues surrounding animal domestication and management, weaning behavior in past populations, agricultural practices, and the diet of prehistoric human populations in the most general sense (Schwarcz et al., 2010; Clementz, 2012). The number of archaeological studies that have used stable isotope analysis has been steadily increasing (Figure 1), but all too often the interpretations of these data rely only on the fundamental isotopic relationships established early on such as the differences between C3 and C4 plants or marine and terrestrial foods (DeNiro and Epstein, 1978, 1981; Schoeninger and DeNiro, 1984).

Bottom Line: This paper discusses the importance of understanding nitrogen dynamics in ancient contexts, and highlights several key areas of archaeology where a more detailed understanding of these processes may enable us to answer some fundamental questions.The paucity of plant material in ancient deposits necessitates that these issues are addressed primarily through the isotopic analysis of skeletal material rather than the plants themselves, but the interpretation of these data hinges on a thorough understanding of the underlying biogeochemical processes in plant-soil systems.Building on studies conducted in modern ecosystems and under controlled conditions, these processes are reviewed, and their relevance discussed for ancient contexts.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC, Canada.

ABSTRACT
Nitrogen isotopic studies have the potential to shed light on the structure of ancient ecosystems, agropastoral regimes, and human-environment interactions. Until relatively recently, however, little attention was paid to the complexities of nitrogen transformations in ancient plant-soil systems and their potential impact on plant and animal tissue nitrogen isotopic compositions. This paper discusses the importance of understanding nitrogen dynamics in ancient contexts, and highlights several key areas of archaeology where a more detailed understanding of these processes may enable us to answer some fundamental questions. This paper explores two larger themes that are prominent in archaeological studies using stable nitrogen isotope analysis: (1) agricultural practices (use of animal fertilizers, burning of vegetation or shifting cultivation, and tillage) and (2) animal domestication and husbandry (grazing intensity/stocking rate and the foddering of domestic animals with cultigens). The paucity of plant material in ancient deposits necessitates that these issues are addressed primarily through the isotopic analysis of skeletal material rather than the plants themselves, but the interpretation of these data hinges on a thorough understanding of the underlying biogeochemical processes in plant-soil systems. Building on studies conducted in modern ecosystems and under controlled conditions, these processes are reviewed, and their relevance discussed for ancient contexts.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus