Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Tolerance of developing salmonid eggs and fry to nitrate exposure

December 1, 1979

This paper reports on tests which show significant effects on early salmonid life stages of nitrates at levels commonly found in groundwaters in geographical areas that are influenced by fertilizer application. It has long been known, from fish cultural experience, that in certain site specific locations, chronic problems can be expected with salmonid egg development and early fry mortality. However, fingerlings which survive usually grow normally. A complete explanation is lacking although several environmental factors have been proposed to account for this phenomenon. One, which has so far received little attention, is that nitrate levels in the ground and surface waters of many areas have been increasing significantly over historical background levels. Ammonia, urea, and other potential sources of nitrate can enter natural waters from a variety of sources, such as domestic or industrial sewage, animal feedlots, or seepage and return flows from agricultural lands. The latter may be the largest contributor, since billions of tons of nitrate fertilizers are applied to agricultural crops on a worldwide basis each year. In addition, intensive forest management techniques include the aerial application of nitrate fertilizer to increase the yield of wood products, while range management practices call for use of nitrates to increase forage production. The nitrate that is not taken up by plants ultimately appears in ground or surface waters.

Publication Year 1979
Title Tolerance of developing salmonid eggs and fry to nitrate exposure
DOI 10.1007/BF01770006
Authors John W. Kincheloe, Gary A. Wedemeyer, David L. Koch
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Index ID 70162279
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center