Impact of point source pollution on nitrogen isotope signatures (d15N) of vegetation in SE Brazil

Stewart, George R.; Aidar, Marcos P. M.; Joly, Carlos A.; Schmidt, Susanne
May 2002
Oecologia;May2002, Vol. 131 Issue 3, p468
Academic Journal
This study presents novel evidence that 15N natural abundance can be used as a robust indicator to detect pollutant nitrogen in natural plant communities. Vegetation from the heavily polluted industrial area of Cubat�o in S�o Paulo State, SE Brazil, was strongly 15N depleted compared to plants at remote sites. Historic herbarium samples from Cubat�o were significantly less 15N depleted than extant plants, indicating that 15N depletion of vegetation is associated with present-day nitrogen pollution in Cubat�o. The heavy load of nitrogenous atmospheric pollutants in Cubat�o provides a nitrogen source for plants, and strongly 15N depleted air NH3 is likely to contribute to plant and soil 15N depletion. Epiphytic plants from Cubat�o were extremely 15N depleted (average �10.9�) contrasting with epiphytes at remote sites (averages �1.0� and �3.0�). Nitrogen isotope composition of vegetation provides a tool to determine input of pollutant nitrogen into plant communities. The strong isotopic change of epiphytes suggests that epiphytes are particularly sensitive biomonitors for atmospheric pollutant nitrogen.


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