Using delta 15N values in algal tissue to map locations and potential sources of anthropogenic nutrient inputs on the island of Maui, Hawai'i, USA

Mar Pollut Bull. 2010 May;60(5):655-71. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.12.021. Epub 2010 Jan 12.


Macroalgal blooms of Hypnea musciformis and Ulvafasciata in coastal waters of Maui only occur in areas of substantial anthropogenic nutrient input, sources of which include wastewater effluent via injection wells, leaking cesspools and agricultural fertilizers. Algal delta(15)N signatures were used to map anthropogenic nitrogen through coastal surveys (island-wide and fine-scale) and algal deployments along nearshore and offshore gradients. Algal delta(15)N values of 9.8 per thousand and 2.0-3.5 per thousand in Waiehu and across the north-central coast, respectively, suggest that cesspool and agricultural nitrogen reached the respective adjacent coastlines. Effluent was detected in areas proximal to the Wastewater Reclamation Facilities (WWRF) operating Class V injection wells in Lahaina, Kihei and Kahului through elevated algal delta(15)N values (17.8-50.1 per thousand). From 1997 to 2008, the three WWRFs injected an estimated total volume of 193 million cubic meters (51 billion gallons) of effluent with a nitrogen mass of 1.74 million kilograms (3.84 million pounds).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / metabolism
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Eukaryota / growth & development
  • Eukaryota / metabolism*
  • Eutrophication
  • Fertilizers / analysis
  • Geography
  • Hawaii
  • Nitrogen Isotopes / analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / methods
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Fertilizers
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical