Utility of stable isotopes ((13)C and (15)N) to demonstrate comparability between natural and experimental streams for environmental risk assessment. Academic Article uri icon


  • Environmental safety of contaminants sometimes requires testing at the ecosystem level. Model ecosystems can serve as a surrogate to receiving waters for the assessor. Tools to verify that model ecosystems are good surrogates for natural receiving water systems have been based on structural attributes such as taxa lists. While examining taxa lists can be useful within a geography, they are less informative when comparing across different topographical and climatic regions. This paper illustrates an alternative approach that uses natural abundance ratios of nitrogen and carbon. Comparisons were made between the Procter and Gamble Co. (P and G) Experimental Stream Facility (ESF) and the East Fork Little Miami River (EFLMR). We also conducted stable isotopes releases of nitrogen ((15)NH(4)Cl) in the ESF and EFLMR. Results from the nitrogen releases for the ESF and EFLMR were compared to each other and to stable isotope releases conducted in 9 streams as part of the Lotic Intersite Nitrogen eXperiment (LINX). Preliminary evaluations of nitrogen uptake show that the uptake rate of ammonium for the P and G experimental streams (0.019 m(-1)) is similar to uptake rates in natural streams of similar flow and fits the regression of uptake length and discharge for the LINX streams. Nutrient flow data obtained in this study in most cases verified model (SISTM) predictions.

publication date

  • September 2006