MEPS 422:9-22 (2011)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08919

Potential early indicators of anthropogenically derived nutrients: a multiscale stable isotope analysis

S. Vermeulen*, N. Sturaro, S. Gobert, J. M. Bouquegneau, G. Lepoint

MARE Centre, Laboratory of Oceanology, University of Liège, Sart Tilman B6c, 4000 Liège, Belgium

ABSTRACT: Increasing human pressure along Mediterranean coastlines raises the need to define sensitive bioindicators that provide an early response to nutrient enrichment. We performed multiscale carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses on the limpet Patella caerulea, the snail Monodonta turbinata, epilithic biofilms, and the macroalga Rissoella verruculosa inhabiting the rocky midlittoral zone. Samples were seasonally collected in 2006 from 5 sites exposed to a range of anthropogenic discharges in the Revellata Bay area and in Marseille harbour (France). All bioindicators exhibited strongly elevated δ15N values at impacted sites compared to pristine ones, which revealed the biological availability of anthropogenically derived nutrients. Only epilithic biofilms tended to show both the occurrence of nutrient pulses during the tourist season and a δ13C response at impacted sites. In contrast to macroalgae, which exhibited a somewhat equivocal signal, gastropods and especially M. turbinata provided the best time-integrated picture of the graduated exposure of the 5 sites to anthropogenic impact. Results also showed first evidence of large isotopic variability at a scale of tens of metres, close to that found at the kilometre scale. The intra- and interspecific isotopic variability in gastropods may be explained by the patchiness of resources and specific morphological and behavioural features, but these factors do not greatly hamper their potential as early bioindicators of wastewater disturbances.


KEY WORDS: NW Mediterranean · Stable isotopes · Eutrophication · Gastropods · Biofilms · Macroalgae · Patchiness


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Cite this article as: Vermeulen S, Sturaro N, Gobert S, Bouquegneau JM, Lepoint G (2011) Potential early indicators of anthropogenically derived nutrients: a multiscale stable isotope analysis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 422:9-22

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