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To examine N-isotope ratios ((15)N/(14)N) in tissues and shell organic matrix of bivalves as a proxy for natural and anthropogenic nutrient fluxes in coastal environments, Pinctada imbricata, Isognomon alatus, and Brachidontes exustusbivalves were live-collected and analyzed from eight sites in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Sites represent a variety of coastal environments, including more urbanized, uninhabited, riverine, and oceanic sites. Growth under differing environmental conditions is confirmed by (18)O values, with open ocean Escudo de Veraguas shells yielding the highest average (18)O (-1.0) value and freshwater endmember Rio Guarumo the lowest (-1.7). At all sites there is no single dominant source of organic matter contributing to bivalve (15)N and (13)C values. Bivalve (15)N and (13)C values likely represent a mixture of mangrove and seagrass N and C, although terrestrial sources cannot be ruled out. Despite hydrographic differences between end-members, we see minimal (15)N and (13)C difference between bivalves from the river-influenced Rio Guarumo site and those from the oceanic Escudo de Veraguas site, with no evidence for N from open-ocean phytoplankton in the latter. Populated sites yield relative (15)N enrichments suggestive of anthropogenic nutrient input, but low (15)N values overall make this interpretation equivocal. Lastly, (15)N values of tissue and shell organic matrix correlate significantly for pterioideans P. imbricata and I. alatus. Thus for these species, N isotope studies of historical and fossil shells should provide records of ecology of past environments.
author list (cited authors)
Graniero, L. E., Grossman, E. L., & O'Dea, A.