The dynamic and hierarchical structure of rivers, together with disruption of the natural river continuum by human activities, makes it difficult to identify and locate sources of nutrient pollution affecting receiving waters and observe its dispersion, thus impairing monitoring efforts. The identification of reliable indicators of anthropogenic nitrogen inputs in catchments is therefore key to achieving effective management of polluted rivers. We tested the capacity of N isotopic signatures (δ15N) of epilithon and snails to provide useful indications of organic and inorganic anthropogenic N inputs in three Mediterranean rivers differing in terms of surrounding land use and physicochemical conditions. We used a combined approach based on (i) analysis of nutrient concentrations in water, (ii) CORINE land cover classification and drainage patterns in catchments and (iii) isotopic analysis of river biota to verify whether isotopic variations were indicative of anthropic activities in the watershed, the associated alteration of water quality, and the consequent impact on snail abundance and diversity. Variation in the δ15N of epilithon within and between rivers reflected localised and diffuse N inputs from inorganic and organic sources. Negative epilithon δ15N values (<0‰) indicated inorganic pollution from agriculture. Values between 4‰ and 8‰ and those above 8‰ respectively indicated moderate organic pollution from urban areas, and high organic pollution, mostly from waste waters. The diversity and abundance of snails decreased with increasing water pollution. While their isotopic variations reflected between-river differences, they failed to indicate within-river variations in anthropogenic N inputs, since the proportion of epilithon in their diet varied along the rivers. Concluding, epilithon was a reliable indicator of anthropogenic N sources across a wide range of nutrient concentrations and anthropogenic inputs, and the proposed approach allowed us to determine the nature of nitrogen pollutants, their sources, location and dispersion along rivers embedded in complex human landscapes.

Isotopic biomonitoring of N pollution in rivers embedded in complex human landscapes / Calizza, E.; Favero, F.; Rossi, D.; Careddu, G.; Fiorentino, F.; Sporta Caputi, S.; Rossi, L.; Costantini, M. L.. - In: SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT. - ISSN 0048-9697. - 706:(2020). [10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.136081]

Isotopic biomonitoring of N pollution in rivers embedded in complex human landscapes

Calizza, E.;Careddu, G.;Fiorentino, F.;Sporta Caputi, S.;Rossi, L.;Costantini, M. L.
2020

Abstract

The dynamic and hierarchical structure of rivers, together with disruption of the natural river continuum by human activities, makes it difficult to identify and locate sources of nutrient pollution affecting receiving waters and observe its dispersion, thus impairing monitoring efforts. The identification of reliable indicators of anthropogenic nitrogen inputs in catchments is therefore key to achieving effective management of polluted rivers. We tested the capacity of N isotopic signatures (δ15N) of epilithon and snails to provide useful indications of organic and inorganic anthropogenic N inputs in three Mediterranean rivers differing in terms of surrounding land use and physicochemical conditions. We used a combined approach based on (i) analysis of nutrient concentrations in water, (ii) CORINE land cover classification and drainage patterns in catchments and (iii) isotopic analysis of river biota to verify whether isotopic variations were indicative of anthropic activities in the watershed, the associated alteration of water quality, and the consequent impact on snail abundance and diversity. Variation in the δ15N of epilithon within and between rivers reflected localised and diffuse N inputs from inorganic and organic sources. Negative epilithon δ15N values (<0‰) indicated inorganic pollution from agriculture. Values between 4‰ and 8‰ and those above 8‰ respectively indicated moderate organic pollution from urban areas, and high organic pollution, mostly from waste waters. The diversity and abundance of snails decreased with increasing water pollution. While their isotopic variations reflected between-river differences, they failed to indicate within-river variations in anthropogenic N inputs, since the proportion of epilithon in their diet varied along the rivers. Concluding, epilithon was a reliable indicator of anthropogenic N sources across a wide range of nutrient concentrations and anthropogenic inputs, and the proposed approach allowed us to determine the nature of nitrogen pollutants, their sources, location and dispersion along rivers embedded in complex human landscapes.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11573/1409714
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