Contribution of sewage organic matter to the diet of the common limpet near the former outflow at Blackhead, Northern Ireland

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    Stable isotopes (δ13C, δ15N) have been used to document the utilisation of sewage effluent in coastal marine foodwebs in a number of studies (e.g. Rau et al. 1981; Risk et al. 2009; Rogers 1999; 2003). δ13C and, especially, δ15N showed clear differences in the diet of common limpets (Patella vulgata) collected in June 2010 near the untreated sewage outfall at Blackhead, Northern Ireland and a ‘clean’ site nearby. Because sewage contains a significant portion of fossil-fuel derived compounds (Law et al. 2013), 14C measurements enabled us to estimate the contribution of fossil carbon to the effluent and to the foodweb and hence of the level of sewage contamination. The effluent was found to contain 12.2 ± x % fossil carbon on the day sampled. The modern marine carbon endmember is enriched by the discharge from the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant across the Irish Sea (c.f. Cook et al. 2004) so 14C analyses of samples from the ‘clean’ site were needed. We found that 38.5 ±x % of the diet of common limpets collected near the sewage was derived from fossil fuel. We plan to collect samples from the same two sites in June 2014 to establish whether the 2012 relocation of the outfall, with preliminary treated discharge farther out to sea has eliminated the contamination at Blackhead

    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2014
    EventRadiocarbon in the Environment 2014 - Northern Ireland, Belfast, United Kingdom
    Duration: 18 Aug 201422 Aug 2014


    ConferenceRadiocarbon in the Environment 2014
    CountryUnited Kingdom

    ID: 16347442