Higher plants induce chemical reactions in the rhizosphere, facilitating metal uptake by roots. Fractionation of the isotopes in nutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc produces a stable isotope composition in the plants that generally differs from that of the growth medium. Isotope fractionation also occurs during transport of the metals within most plants, but its extent depends on plant species and on the metal, in particular, on the metal's redox state and what ligand it is bound to. The metal stable isotope variations observed in plants create an isotope signature of life at the Earth's surface, contributing substantially to our understanding of metal cycling processes in the environment and in individual organisms.
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Fractionation of metal stable isotopes by higher plants