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Bivalve-enhanced nitrogen removal from coastal estuaries

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Interest in use of bivalves to remediate estuarine eutrophication has increased in recent years. High variation among data sets, substantial focus on particle removal, and insufficient links to anthropogenic nitrogen (N) sources encouraged this empirical examination of N removal by bivalves from estuaries receiving different N loads. We determined the capacity of the oyster Crassostrea virginica to remove N by comparing N assimilated into tissues with anthropogenic N from land or available in phytoplankton. Oyster growth yielded 0.2–0.4 g N in tissues and depended on estuary-specific conditions. δ15N values confirmed that N in oyster tissues derived from local anthropogenic sources. At representative restoration and aquaculture conditions (≤400 oysters·m–2 at 0.5%–1.0% of estuary area), estimated N removal was ≤15% of land-derived loads and <1% of phytoplankton N. N removal via biogeochemical processes was negligible during grow-out, but became important after oysters attained harvestable size. This study explicitly demonstrates that oysters assimilated land-derived N, but suggests that bivalve bioremediation consider trade-offs between intensity of planting, ecological effects, and available space.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory, 150 Agassiz Street, Dauphin Island, AL 36528, USA. 2: Woods Hole Group, 1 Technology Park Drive, East Falmouth, MA 02536, USA.

Publication date: July 28, 2012

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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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