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Crassostrea virginica is one of the most common estuarine bivalves in the United States? east coast and is frequently found in archaeological sites and sub-fossil deposits. Although there have been several sclerochronological studies on stable carbon and oxygen isotopes in the shells of this species, less is known about ?15N values within their shells, which could be a useful paleoenvironmental proxy to assess estuarine nitrogen dynamics. Modern C. virginica samples were collected in Chesapeake Bay for comparison with archaeological shells from nearby sites ranging in age from ~100 to 3,200 years old. Left valves were sampled by milling the hinge area and the resulting powder was analyzed for %N and ?15N values. Comparison of ?15N values between C. virginica shells shows relatively constant values from ~1250 BC to ~1800 AD. After ~1800 AD, there are rapid increases in 15N enrichment in the shells, which continue to increase in value up to the modern shell values. The increase in ?15N values is evidence of early anthropogenic impact in Chesapeake Bay. These results corroborate the observation that coastal nitrogen pollution occurred earlier than the 19th century and support the use of oyster shell ?15N values as a useful environmental proxy.
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Black, H. D.; Andrus, C. F. T.; Lambert, W. J.; Rick, T. C.; and Gillikin, D. P., "15N Values in Crassostrea virginica Shells Provides Early Direct Evidence for Nitrogen Loading to Chesapeake Bay" (2017). All Faculty. 193.
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