Send to

Choose Destination
Sci Total Environ. 2013 Jan 15;443:887-95. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.11.065. Epub 2012 Dec 14.

Stable nitrogen isotopes in coastal macroalgae: geographic and anthropogenic variability.

Author information

Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centro Oceanográfico de A Coruña, Apdo. 130, 15080 A Coruña, Spain.


Growing human population adds to the natural nitrogen loads to coastal waters. Both anthropogenic and natural nitrogen is readily incorporated in new biomass, and these different nitrogen sources may be traced by the measurement of the ratio of stable nitrogen isotopes (δ(15)N). In this study δ(15)N was determined in two species of macroalgae (Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus vesiculosus), and in nitrate and ammonium to determine the relative importance of anthropogenic versus natural sources of nitrogen along the coast of NW Spain. Both algal species and nitrogen sources showed similar isotopic enrichment for a given site, but algal δ(15)N was not related to either inorganic nitrogen concentrations or δ(15)N in the water samples. The latter suggests that inorganic nitrogen inputs are variable and do not always leave an isotopic trace in macroalgae. However, a significant linear decrease in macroalgal δ(15)N along the coast is consistent with the differential effect of upwelling. Besides this geographic variability, the influence of anthropogenic nitrogen sources is evidenced by higher δ(15)N in macroalgae from rias and estuaries compared to those from open coastal areas and in areas with more than 15×10(3) inhabitants in the watershed. These results indicate that, in contrast with other studies, macroalgal δ(15)N is not simply related to either inorganic nitrogen concentrations or human population size but depends on other factors as the upwelling or the efficiency of local waste treatment systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center