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Determination of the Sensitivity of Two Species of Amphibians to Toxicity From Nitrate, Nitrite and Ammonia


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Description of Work Determine the relative sensitivity of two species of amphibians (i.e. Wood Frogs Rana sylvatica, Cricket Frogs Acris crepitans blanchardi, American Toad Bufo americana) to exposure to acute and chronic levels of nitrate, nitrite and ammonia. This data will be used to evaluate the current ammonia criteria and for possible inclusion in the development of criteria for nitrite and nitrate.


Principal Investigator :
Edward E Little
Associate Project Chief :
Rip S Shively
Cooperator/Partner :
Christopher G Ingersoll, Bethany K Kunz, Nile E Kemble, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Lead Organization :
Columbia Environmental Research Center

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Region 5 is working with the States and Tribes to develop water quality criteria for nutrients. Most of that work is focusing on the indirect effect nutrients have on aquatic communities through organic enrichment. However, one of the Region 5 states recently began to review lab and field data to determine if one form of nitrogen may be having a direct toxic effect. The available data reviewed by the state suggests that amphibians may be sensitive to chronic exposures of nitrate, and they appear to be one of the most sensitive groups of organisms tested. Given that (1) human activities have increased the concentrations of numerous forms of nitrogen in the environment, (2) the form of nitrogen in the environment is dependant on human activities and natural processes that transform one form of nitrogen to another, and (3) the general lack of toxicity data for amphibians, this project will generate data for the three forms of nitrogen that are present in the environment and may cause toxicity to aquatic life (nitrate, nitrite and ammonia). This information can be used by EPA, the Great Lakes States and Tribes in the development of water quality criteria to protect amphibians and other aquatic life and will be used to determine if existing criteria are sufficiently protective of this important group of aquatic animals.

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