Life and death of a sewage treatment plant recorded in a coral skeleton Δ15N record

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Journal Article
We investigated the potential of coral skeleton δ15N (CS-δ15N) records for tracking anthropogenic-N sources in coral reef ecosystems. We produced a 56 yr-long CS-δ15N record (1958–2014) from a reef flat in Guam that has been exposed to varying 1) levels of sewage treatment 2) population density, and 3) land use. Increasing population density (from < 30 to 300 ind·km− 2) and land use changes in the watershed resulted in a 1‰ enrichment of the CS-δ15N record until a sewage treatment plant (STP) started operation in 1975. Then, CS-δ15N stabilized, despite continued population density and land use changes. Based on population and other considerations, a continued increase in the sewage footprint might have been expected over this time. The stability of CS-δ15N, either contradicts this expectation, or indicates that the impacts on the outer reef at the coring site were buffered by the mixing of reef water with the open ocean. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd
Marine Pollution Bulletin