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Coral skeleton δ15N as a tracer of historic nutrient loading to a coral reef in Maui, Hawaii

April 5, 2019

Excess nutrient loading to nearshore environments has been linked to declining water quality and ecosystem health. Macro-algal blooms, eutrophication, and reduction in coral cover have been observed in West Maui, Hawaii, and linked to nutrient inputs from coastal submarine groundwater seeps. Here, we present a forty-year record of nitrogen isotopes (δ15N) of intra-crystalline coral skeletal organic matter in three coral cores collected at this site and evaluate the record in terms of changes in nitrogen sources. Our results show a dramatic increase in coral δ15N values after 1995, corresponding with the implementation of biological nutrient removal at the nearby Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility (LWRF). High δ15N values are known to be strongly indicative of denitrification and sewage effluent, corroborating a previously suggested link between local wastewater injection and degradation of the reef environment. This record demonstrates the power of coral skeletal δ15N as a tool for evaluating nutrient dynamics within coral reef environments.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Coral skeleton δ15N as a tracer of historic nutrient loading to a coral reef in Maui, Hawaii
DOI 10.1038/s41598-019-42013-3
Authors Joseph Murray, Nancy G. Prouty, Sara E. Peek, Adina Paytan
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Scientific Reports
Index ID 70202923
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center