The relative importance of the stellar sources contributing to the production matrix of the heavy elements up to iron is reviewed. Three main element groups may be distinguished: (a) oxygen and the alpha-process elements; (b) the iron-peak group; (c) helium, carbon and nitrogen. Each of these is produced in stars of a different mass range and in different ways, and it is shown that an examination of metallicity-metallicity relationships can be used to constrain models of the history of star formation, stellar evolution, and the initial mass function in galaxies.
We can conclude that in the case of our local solar neighbourhood the initial Fe/O ratio was set by Type II supernovae, but that Type I½ supernovae were never important. Iron is produced by the Type I deflagration supernovae on a time-scale comparable to the infall time-scale of the gas. Carbon is produced by dredge-up in low-mass stars, but nitrogen is shown to be produced both in the stellar winds of massive stars, and in higher mass stars which give rise to the Type I planetary nebulae.