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Stable nitrogen isotopes as indicators of anthropogenic activities in small freshwater systems

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Abstract:

Stable nitrogen isotope ratios (15N) were measured in fish, mussel, and sediment samples taken from 17 small freshwater sites to examine food chain length and trophic position across sites affected by differing levels of anthropogenic activity. Both shoreline development and fish species composition varied greatly among sites, and a range of up to 11.2‰ was found for the 15N values of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). Fish 15N values were baseline corrected using unionid mussel (Elliptio complanata) 15N values. Predators, such as largemouth bass and chain pickerel (Esox niger), exhibited normalized 15N values that were less variable than those of benthic-feeding fishes. Relationships between 15N and dissolved inorganic nitrogen concentrations indicated that 15N was a valid descriptor of eutrophication at sites with low dissolved inorganic nitrogen concentrations. The fraction of residential land in buffer zones surrounding sites was correlated with fish 15N, indicating that urban development, and presumably human wastewater, resulted in elevated 15N values in these small freshwater systems.

Des mesures des rapports d'isotopes stables d'azote (15N) dans des poissons, des moules et des échantillons de sédiments récoltés à 17 sites d'eau douce ont permis d'étudier la longueur de la chaîne alimentaire et les positions trophiques dans une série de milieux affectés à des degrés divers par l'activité humaine. Le développement de la ligne de berge et la composition spécifique des poissons varient considérablement d'un site à l'autre; les valeurs de 15N chez l'Achigan à grande bouche (Micropterus salmoides) s'élevent jusqu'à 11,2‰. Les valeurs de 15N chez les poissons ont été corrigées en utilisant comme référence les valeurs de 15N des moules (Elliptio complanata). Les prédateurs, comme les Achigans à grande bouche et les Brochets maillés (Esox niger), possèdent des valeurs normalisées de 15N moins variables que celles des poissons benthonophages. Les relations entre les valeurs de 15N et les concentrations d'azote inorganique dissous indiquent que le 15N est un bon descripteur de l'eutrophisation aux sites de basses concentrations d'azote inorganique dissous. La proportion de terres résidentielles dans la zone tampon autour des sites est en corrélation avec le 15N des poissons, ce qui laisse croire que le développement urbain, et sans doute les eaux d'égouts d'origine anthropique, amènent une augmentation des valeurs de 15N dans ces petits systèmes d'eau douce.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2001

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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