Using nitrogen and oxygen isotopes to locate pollution from non-point sources in the Chesapeake Bay


  • Cole Pate James Madison University



Non-point source, nitrogen isotope, oxygen isotope, pollution, fertilizer, manure, Chesapeake Bay


Locating non-point sources of pollution is essential to keep bodies of water (streams, rivers, lakes, groundwater, etc.) clean and to protect the humans, plants, and animals that depend on this water. However, cleaning up pollution after it has entered waterways is not a sustainable practice. Thus, the pollution must be managed at the source. Non-point sources of pollution have no obvious source which makes them particularly destructive to the environment. One specific location that is greatly affected by pollution is the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Nitrogen and oxygen isotope analysis has been proposed as an effective marker to pinpoint these non-point sources. One of the first challenges is determining the type of pollution (fertilizers, manure, chemical waste, etc.) in a particular waterway. A common form of non-point source pollution that is particularly difficult to locate is fertilizer. Many common types of fertilizer have been studied thoroughly.1,2 Being able to differentiate between types of fertilizers can be the first step to tracing non-point sources back to where they originated. However, there has been no study to create a baseline of isotope abundance in the Chesapeake Bay which is required to locate non-point sources. Additionally, only nitrogen isotopes have been studied in depth within many types of fertilizers. Oxygen isotopes in water and deuterium isotopes can be beneficial to study as well which can further differentiate between types of pollution. Overall, utilizing nitrogen and oxygen isotopic abundance can be the first step to locating harmful sources of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.


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References or Bibliography

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How to Cite

Pate, C. (2023). Using nitrogen and oxygen isotopes to locate pollution from non-point sources in the Chesapeake Bay. Journal of Student Research, 11(3).



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