Document Type


Publication Title

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences


Interest in use of bivalves to remediate estuarine eutrophication has increased in recent years. High variation among data sets, substantial focus on particle removal, and insufficient links to anthropogenic nitrogen (N) sources encouraged this empirical examination of N removal by bivalves from estuaries receiving different N loads. We determined the capacity of the oyster Crassostrea virginica to remove N by comparing N assimilated into tissues with anthropogenic N from land or available in phytoplankton. Oyster growth yielded 0.2–0.4 g N in tissues and depended on estuary-specific conditions. d15N values confirmed that N in oyster tissues derived from local anthropogenic sources. At representative restoration and aquaculture conditions (≤400 oysters m–2 at 0.5%–1.0% of estuary area), estimated N removal was ≤15% of land derived loads and <1% of phytoplankton N. N removal via biogeochemical processes was negligible during grow-out, but became important after oysters attained harvestable size. This study explicitly demonstrates that oysters assimilated land derived N, but suggests that bivalve bioremediation consider trade-offs between intensity of planting, ecological effects, and available space.



Publication Date