Coral Reefs

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 353–362 | Cite as

The coral δ15N record of terrestrial nitrate loading varies with river catchment land use

  • A. YamazakiEmail author
  • T. Watanabe
  • U. Tsunogai
  • H. Hasegawa
  • H. Yamano


We analysed the nitrogen isotopes in two coral cores (δ15Ncoral) from the mouth of the Todoroki River, Ishigaki Island, Japan, to examine whether the δ15Ncoral reflects the run-off of nitrate related to the land use in the river catchment. The two coral cores were used to examine the seasonal variation in δ15Ncoral for 14 years (CORE1; 1993–2007) and the annual variation of δ15Ncoral for 52 years (CORE2; 1958–2010). In CORE1, the 5-month running mean of δ15Ncoral was positively correlated with that of monthly precipitation, excluding all strong precipitation events (>150 mm d−1). In CORE2, the δ15Ncoral mean in the earlier period (1958–1980) was 1.0 ‰ greater than that in the later period (1981–2010). The annual averages of δ15Ncoral are positively correlated with the total precipitation in the rainy season (May–June) for both time periods. The difference in the δ15Ncoral between the earlier and later periods is probably caused by the land use changed from paddy fields with 15N-rich manure to sugar cane fields in the early 1980s. Although some uncertainties still remain regarding the precision of δ15N coral proxy records, this study emphasises the clear potential for their use in reconstructing terrestrial nitrate discharge records from corals.


Coral skeletons Nitrogen isotopes Nitrate Land use River discharge Coral reefs 



Coral and water sampling for this study were supported by CREES members of Hokkaido University, Toshiaki Tanaka, Teppei Sagawa, Satoshi Maekawa, and the WWF Coral Reef Conservation and Research Centre. Coral core cutting was supported by Masataka Ikeda. The research was funded by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas ‘Coral reef science for symbiosis and coexistence of human and ecosystem under combined stresses’ (#20121004) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan. A. Yamazaki was supported by Grants-in-Aid for JSPS research fellows.

Supplementary material

338_2014_1235_MOESM1_ESM.tif (5.2 mb)
The seasonal variation of nitrogen isotopes and nitrate concentrations at the mouth of the Todoroki River. The nitrogen isotopes in the samples of nitrate concentrations <0.5 µM are unknown due to the detection limits. The allows indicate the direction of prevailing currents based on Tamura H, Nadaoka K, Paringit EC (2007) Hydrodynamic characteristics of a fringing coral reef on the east coast of Ishigaki Island, southwest Japan. Coral Reefs 26: 17–34 (TIFF 5306 kb)
338_2014_1235_MOESM2_ESM.tif (1.9 mb)
X-radiographs and analytical lines for CORE1 and CORE2 (TIFF 1901 kb)
338_2014_1235_MOESM3_ESM.tif (6.6 mb)
Relationship between monthly river discharge and monthly precipitation in the Todoroki River catchment. The data were collected from November 2006 to November 2007 by the government of Okinawa prefecture (TIFF 6717 kb)


  1. Adachi H, Abe O (2003) Air drill for submerged massive coral drilling. Mar Technol Soc Bull 37:31–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bellwood DR, Hughes TP, Folke C, Nystrom M (2004) Confronting the coral reef crisis. Nature 429:827–833CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Blanco AC, Nadaoka K, Yamamoto T (2008) Planktonic and benthic microalgal community composition as indicators of terrestrial influence on a fringing reef in Ishigaki Island, Southwest Japan. Mar Environ Res 66:520–535CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Blanco AC, Nadaoka K, Yamamoto T, Kinjo K (2010) Dynamic evolution of nutrient discharge under stormflow and baseflow conditions in a coastal agricultural watershed in Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan. Hydrol Process 24:2601–2616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. De’ath G, Fabricius KE, Sweatman H, Puotinen M (2012) The 27–year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109:17995–17999CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Druffel ERM (1997) Geochemistry of corals: proxies of past ocean chemistry, ocean circulation, and climate. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 94:8354–8361CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Fabricius K (2005) Effects of terrestrial runoff on the ecology of corals and coral reefs: review and synthesis. Mar Pollut Bull 50:125–146CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Fukada T, Hiscock KM, Dennis PF, Grischek T (2003) A dual isotope approach to identify denitrification in groundwater at a river-bank infiltration site. Water Res 37:3070–3078CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Gagan MK, Ayliffe LK, Beck JW, Cole JE, Druffel ERM, Dunbar RB, Schrag DP (2000) New views of tropical paleoclimates from corals. Quat Sci Rev 19:45–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Grottoli A, Eakin C (2007) A review of modern coral δ18O and Δ14C proxy records. Earth Sci Rev 81:67–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hasegawa H (2011) The decline of coral reef conditions caused by the extensive land modification: A case study of the Shiraho area on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan. Journal of the Remote Sensing Society of Japan 31:73–86Google Scholar
  12. Heikoop JM, Dunn JJ, Risk MJ, Sandeman IM, Schwarcz HP, Waltho N (1998) Relationship between light and the δ15N of coral tissue: Examples from Jamaica and Zanzibar. Limnol Oceanogr 43:909–920CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Heikoop JM, Dunn JJ, Risk MJ, Tomascik T, Schwarcz HP, Sandeman IM, Sammarco PW (2000) δ15N and δ13C of coral tissue show significant inter–reef variation. Coral Reefs 19:189–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hirota A, Tsunogai U, Komatsu DD, Nakagawa F (2010) Simultaneous determination of δ15N and δ18O of N2O and δ13C of CH4 in nanomolar quantities from a single water sample. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 24:1085–1092CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Mumby PJ, Hooten AJ, Steneck RS, Greenfield P, Gomez E, Harvell CD, Sale PF, Edwards AJ, Caldeira K, Knowlton N, Eakin CM, Iglesias-Prieto R, Muthiga N, Bradbury MN, Dubi A, Hatziolos ME (2007) Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science 318:1737–1742CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Ikeda S, Osawa K, Akamatsu Y (2009) Sediment and nutrients transport in watershed and their impact on coastal environment. Proc Jpn Acad Ser B 85:374–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Inoue M, Ishikawa D, Miyaji T, Yamazaki A, Suzuki A, Yamano H, Kawahata H, Watanabe T (2014) Evaluation of Mn and Fe in coral skeletons (Porites spp.) as proxies for sediment loading and reconstruction of 50 yrs of land use on Ishigaki Island. Japan. Coral Reefs 33:363–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ishihara M, Hasegawa H, Hayashi S, Yamano H (2014) Land cover classification using multi-temporal satellite images in a subtropical area. In: Nakano S, Yahara T, Nakashizuka T (eds) The biodiversity observation network in the Asia-Pacific region: Integrative observations and assessments of Asian biodiversity. Springer, pp 231–237Google Scholar
  19. Knapp AN, Sigman DM, Lipschultz F (2005) N isotopic composition of dissolved organic nitrogen and nitrate at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study site. Global Biogeochem Cycles 19:GB1018CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Konno U, Tsunogai U, Komatsu DD, Daita S, Nakagawa F, Tsuda A, Matsui T, Eum YJ, Suzuki K (2010) Determination of total N2 fixation rates in the ocean taking into account both the particulate and filtrate fractions. Biogeosciences 7:2369–2377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Marion G, Dunbar R, Mucciarone D, Kremer J, Lansing J, Arthawiguna A (2005) Coral skeletal δ15N reveals isotopic traces of an agricultural revolution. Mar Pollut Bull 50:931–944CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Miyajima T, Suzumura M, Umezawa Y, Koike I (2001) Microbiological nitrogen transformation in carbonate sediments of a coral–reef lagoon and associated seagrass beds. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 217:273–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Muscatine L, Kaplan IR (1994) Resource partitioning by reef corals as determined from stable isotope composition. II. 15N of symbiotic dinoflagellates and animal tissue versus depth. Pac Sci 48:304–312Google Scholar
  24. Needoba JA, Waser NA, Harrison PJ, Calvert SE (2003) Nitrogen isotope fractionation in 12 species of marine phytoplankton during growth on nitrate. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 255:81–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pal M, Mather PM (2003) An assessment of the effectiveness of decision tree methods for land cover classification. Remote Sens Environ 86:554–565CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Reynaud S, Martinez P, Houlbrèque F, Billy I, Allemand D, Ferrier-Pagès C (2009) Effect of light and feeding on the nitrogen isotopic composition of a zooxanthellate coral: role of nitrogen recycling. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 392:103–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Tsunogai U, Kido T, Hirota A, Ohkubo SB, Komatsu DD, Nakagawa F (2008) Sensitive determinations of stable nitrogen isotopic composition of organic nitrogen through chemical conversion into N2O. Rapid Commun Mass Spec 22:345–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schwarz CJ (2011) Sampling, regression, experimental design and analysis for environmental scientists, biologists and resource managers. Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, Simon Fraser University, p 57Google Scholar
  29. Uchida A, Nishizawa M, Shirai K, Iijima H, Kayanne H, Takahata N, Sano Y (2008) High sensitivity measurements of nitrogen isotopic ratios in coral skeletons from Palau, western Pacific: Temporal resolution and seasonal variation of nitrogen sources. Geochem J 42:255–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Umezawa Y, Miyajima T, Koike I (2008) Stable nitrogen isotope composition in sedimentary organic matter as a potential proxy of nitrogen sources for primary producers at a fringing coral reef. J Oceanogr 64:899–909CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Umezawa Y, Miyajima T, Yamamuro M, Kayanne H, Koike I (2002a) Fine scale mapping of land-derived nitrogen in coral reefs, by δ15N values in macroalgae. Limnol Oceanogr 47:1405–1416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Umezawa Y, Miyajima T, Kayanne H, Koike I (2002b) Significance of groundwater nitrogen discharge into coral reefs at Ishigaki Island, southwest of Japan. Coral Reefs 21:346–356Google Scholar
  33. Yamamuro M, Kayanne H, Yamano H (2003) δ15N of seagrass leaves for monitoring anthropogenic nutrient increases in coral reef ecosystems. Mar Pollut Bull 46:452–458CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Yamazaki A, Watanabe T, Ogawa NO, Ohkouchi N, Shirai K, Toratani M, Uematsu M (2011a) Seasonal variations in the nitrogen isotope composition of Okinotori coral in the tropical western Pacific: A new proxy for marine nitrate dynamics. J Geophys Res 116:G04005Google Scholar
  35. Yamazaki A, Watanabe T, Tsunogai U (2011b) Nitrogen isotopes of organic nitrogen in reef coral skeletons as a proxy of tropical nutrient dynamics. Geophys Res Lett 38:L19605Google Scholar
  36. Yamazaki A, Watanabe T, Takahata N, Sano Y, Tsunogai U (2013) Nitrogen isotopes in intra-crystal coralline aragonites. Chem Geol 351:276–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Yamazaki
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • T. Watanabe
    • 1
  • U. Tsunogai
    • 3
  • H. Hasegawa
    • 4
  • H. Yamano
    • 5
  1. 1.Graduate School of ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  2. 2.Atmosphere and Ocean Research InstituteThe University of TokyoChibaJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of Environmental StudiesNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  4. 4.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesKokushikan UniversityTokyoJapan
  5. 5.Center for Environmental Biology and Ecosystem StudiesNational Institute for Environmental StudiesTsukubaJapan

Personalised recommendations