Cultural Eutrophication Is Reflected in the Stable Isotopic Composition of the Eastern Mudsnail, Nassarius obsoletus

Journal of Environmental Quality
Burke Watson, Elizabeth; Szura, Katelyn; Powell, Elisabeth; Maher, Nicole; Wigand, Cathleen
PublisherAlliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies
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Volume / Issue47/1
Total Pages7 pages
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Publication DateNovember 09, 2017
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AbstractIn aquatic ecosystems, biological indicators are used in concert with nutrient concentration data to identify habitat impairments related to cultural eutrophication. This approach has been less commonly implemented in coastal areas due to the dominance of physical conditions in structuring biological assemblage data. Here, we describe the use of the stable isotopic composition of Nassarius obsoletus (Say), the eastern mudsnail, as an indicator of cultural eutrophication for 40 locations in coastal estuaries in New York. We found 15N enrichment in mudsnail tissue where watersheds had high population densities, land use patterns were more urbanized, and when sampling sites were adjacent to wastewater treatment plant discharges. Stable carbon isotopes were responsive to salinity and watershed forest cover, with more saline sites reflecting a predominantly C4 or algal carbon isotopic signature and more forested sites a lighter isotopic signature reflecting greater inputs of C3 terrestrial detrital carbon. Mudsnail nitrogen isotopic composition had a high level of separation between more affected and pristine watersheds (from 6.6 to 14.1‰), highlighting its utility as an indicator. We thus propose that stable isotope values of estuarine biota, such as the eastern mudsnail, can be used in concert with water quality data to identify areas where improvements in water quality are needed and can also be used to identify sources of detrital carbon to estuarine environments.
Created: 12/18/2018 1:19 PM (ET)
Modified: 12/18/2018 1:19 PM (ET)
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