Life and death of a sewage treatment plant recorded in a coral skeleton Δ15N record

Nicolas N. Duprey, Xingchen T. Wang, Philip D. Thompson, Jeffrey E. Pleadwell, Laurie J. Raymundo, Kiho Kim, Daniel Mikhail Sigman, David M. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We investigated the potential of coral skeleton δ15N (CS-δ15N) records for tracking anthropogenic-N sources in coral reef ecosystems. We produced a 56 yr-long CS-δ15N record (1958–2014) from a reef flat in Guam that has been exposed to varying 1) levels of sewage treatment 2) population density, and 3) land use. Increasing population density (from < 30 to 300 ind·km− 2) and land use changes in the watershed resulted in a ~ 1‰ enrichment of the CS-δ15N record until a sewage treatment plant (STP) started operation in 1975. Then, CS-δ15N stabilized, despite continued population density and land use changes. Based on population and other considerations, a continued increase in the sewage footprint might have been expected over this time. The stability of CS-δ15N, either contradicts this expectation, or indicates that the impacts on the outer reef at the coring site were buffered by the mixing of reef water with the open ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-116
Number of pages8
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Aquatic Science
  • Oceanography


  • Coral reefs
  • Eutrophication
  • Porites sp.
  • Sewage
  • Stable nitrogen isotopes


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