Mudsnails Can be Used To Detect Levels of Nitrogen
A group of scientists has discovered that eastern mudsnails can be used as an effective water quality indicators. How? The brilliant scientists Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia have found an amazing discovery!
According to the study, mudsnail can be so small but it is an effective proxies for how much nitrogen is in an ecosystem.
It is a known fact that nitrogen is an important nutrient, however, high levels can have negative impact to aquatic systems. To avoid this scenario, the mudsnails can be of good help for identifying and remedying ecosystems where water quality is compromised.
The researchers found that these tiny creatures snail could be a big help to researchers measuring water quality specifically along the U.S. and Canadian Atlantic coast.
This discovery is confirmed by Elizabeth Watson, lead author of the study.
Watson said, “This is perhaps the first study to highlight the use of these snails as water quality indicators. I think scientists will now be much more confident in applying this approach in areas across the Northeast.”
In the study, researchers measured levels of two different versions, or isotopes, of nitrogen in mudsnail tissues.
“The proportions of heavier and lighter versions of nitrogen show how much nitrogen is available in that ecosystem,” says Watson. Higher levels of the heavier version in mudsnail tissues signal higher overall levels of nitrogen in the environment.
Researchers collected mudsnails from over 40 study sites. These sites were spread across Long Island, New York.
The results are as follows:
The researchers found that the heavier version of nitrogen was enriched in mudsnail tissue in several study sites. These sites are usually in urbanized and densely populated areas.
High levels of nitrogen were also evident in areas of untreated sewage during heavy rains.
Aside from that, nitrogen pollution is also a concern in more pristine coastal areas, such as eastern Long Island and Barnegat Bay.
The Amazing Mudsnails
Mudsnails are amazing species to use as water quality indicators. The organisms are tiny and easy to catch.
But aside from that, mudsnails also live for a long time-over 50 years in some cases. The organisms can offer researchers important information over a much broader period of time.
In fact, Watson is now trying to establish water quality baselines for New York and New Jersey based on analysis of older material.
“The academy has collections of mudsnails that are at least a hundred years old,” says Watson. “We can analyze recently-collected mudsnail shells and compare them with shells from a century ago.” This can help researchers detect how much nitrogen levels in coastal areas have changed over the last hundred years.