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Discrete Organic Phosphorus Signatures are Evident in Pollutant Sources within a Lake Erie Tributary

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journal contribution
posted on 21.05.2018, 00:00 by M. R. Brooker, K. Longnecker, E. B. Kujawinski, M. H. Evert, P. J. Mouser
Phosphorus loads are strongly associated with the severity of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, a Great Lake situated between the United States and Canada. Inorganic and total phosphorus measurements have historically been used to estimate nonpoint and point source contributions, from contributing watersheds with organic phosphorus often neglected. Here, we used ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry to characterize the dissolved organic matter and specifically dissolved organic phosphorus composition of several nutrient pollutant source materials and aqueous samples in a Lake Erie tributary. We detected between 23 and 313 organic phosphorus formulas across our samples, with manure samples having greater abundance of phosphorus- and nitrogen containing compounds compared to other samples. Manures also were enriched in lipids and protein-like compounds. The greatest similarities were observed between the Sandusky River and wastewater treatment plant effluent (WWTP), or the Sandusky River and agricultural edge of field samples. These sample pairs shared 84% of organic compounds and 59–73% of P-containing organic compounds, respectively. This similarity suggests that agricultural and/or WWTP sources dominate the supply of organic phosphorus compounds to the river. We identify formulas shared between the river and pollutant sources that could serve as possible markers of source contamination in the tributary.