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Biomonitoring freshwater FISH farms by measuring nitrogen concentrations and the δ15N signal in living and devitalized moss transplants

Carballeira, C., Carballeira, A., Aboal, J.R., Fernández, J.A.
Environmental pollution 2019 v.245 pp. 1014-1021
chemical analysis, environmental monitoring, fish farms, freshwater aquaculture, freshwater fish, indicator species, mosses and liverworts, nitrogen, nitrogen content, plant tissues, pollution, stable isotopes, temporal variation, water analysis
The trophic balance of freshwater aquaculture activities has traditionally been monitored by chemical analysis of water; however, the parameters measured are usually characterized by high temporal variability. Aquatic mosses can be used as biomonitors as they integrate both continuous and episodic contamination events. Here we report, for the first time, a method for monitoring N enrichment in the surroundings of fish farms by measuring the N content and isotopic signal (δ15N) of transplanted living and devitalized specimens of the aquatic moss Fontinalis antipyretica. For this purpose, moss samples (“moss bags”) were exposed at increasing distances (10, 100, 300 and 1000 m) up- and downstream of the effluent discharge points of four trout farms, for 10 and 30 days. The low natural (background) variability in δ15N in upstream samples enabled detection of outlier values, caused by aquaculture discharges, at distances of 10 and 100 m downstream, especially in devitalized moss and after 10 days of exposure. However, the unexpectedly low N contents of moss samples exposed close to the discharge points complicates interpretation of the high levels of N forms detected by conventional physicochemical analysis of water. Although the mechanisms that modify N parameters in moss tissues were not clear, measurement of the isotopic signal δ15N in devitalized moss exposed for 10 days proved useful for monitoring the N pollution associated with intensive freshwater aquaculture.