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J Environ Monit. 2011 Feb;13(2):370-6. doi: 10.1039/c0em00290a. Epub 2010 Dec 6.

A suite of microplate reader-based colorimetric methods to quantify ammonium, nitrate, orthophosphate and silicate concentrations for aquatic nutrient monitoring.

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Marine Laboratory, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, 135 Duke Marine Lab Rd, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA.


A sensitive, accurate and rapid analysis of major nutrients in aquatic systems is essential for monitoring and maintaining healthy aquatic environments. In particular, monitoring ammonium (NH(4)(+)) concentrations is necessary for maintenance of many fish stocks, while accurate monitoring and regulation of ammonium, orthophosphate (PO(4)(3-)), silicate (Si(OH)(4)) and nitrate (NO(3)(-)) concentrations are required for regulating algae production. Monitoring of wastewater streams is also required for many aquaculture, municipal and industrial wastewater facilities to comply with local, state or federal water quality effluent regulations. Traditional methods for quantifying these nutrient concentrations often require laborious techniques or expensive specialized equipment making these analyses difficult. Here we present four alternative microcolorimetric assays that are based on a standard 96-well microplate format and microplate reader that simplify the quantification of each of these nutrients. Each method uses small sample volumes (200 µL), has a detection limit ≤ 1 µM in freshwater and ≤ 2 µM in saltwater, precision of at least 8% and compares favorably with standard analytical procedures. Routine use of these techniques in the laboratory and at an aquaculture facility to monitor nutrient concentrations associated with microalgae growth demonstrates that they are rapid, accurate and highly reproducible among different users. These techniques offer an alternative to standard nutrient analyses and because they are based on the standard 96-well format, they significantly decrease the cost and time of processing while maintaining high precision and sensitivity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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