Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) [delta]15N as a bioindicator of nitrogen sources: Observations and modeling
Stable nitrogen isotopes ([delta]15N) in bioindicators are increasingly employed to identify nitrogen sources in many ecosystems and biological characteristics of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) make it an appropriate species for this purpose. To assess nitrogen isotopic fractionation associated with assimilation and baseline variations in oyster mantle, gill, and muscle tissue [delta]15N, manipulative fieldwork in Chesapeake Bay and corresponding modeling exercises were conducted. This study (1) determined that five individuals represented an optimal sample size; (2) verified that [delta]15N in oysters from two locations converged after shared deployment to a new location reflecting a change in nitrogen sources; (3) identified required exposure time and temporal integration (four months for muscle, two to three months for gill and mantle); and (4) demonstrated seasonal [delta]15N increases in seston (summer) and oysters (winter). As bioindicators, oysters can be deployed for spatial interpolation of nitrogen sources, even in areas lacking extant populations.
Keywords: Biological indicators, Crassostrea virginica, Stable nitrogen isotopes, Nitrogen sources, Temporal integration, Chesapeake Bay