Multiple isotope forensics of nitrate in a wild horse poisoning incident
Multiple stable isotope analysis can be a powerful technique in forensic sciences. Oxygen and nitrogen isotopes were used to determine the source of nitrate that was responsible for the poisoning deaths of 71 wild horses in the Nevada desert. The nitrate was present in a water-filled hole known as ‘the Main Lake depression.’ Nitrate from the Main Lake depression had δ18O and δ15N values that were very positive (+32‰, +37‰), and Δ17O values of approximately +2‰. The isotopic data suggested that the most probable source of the nitrate was nitrification of nitrogen from horse manure and urine that had leached into the pond. The δ18O signal suggested that extreme evaporative concentration had occurred, resulting in toxic levels of nitrate accumulating in the Main Lake depression. The study demonstrates the utility of the multiple stable isotope analysis approach for characterizing sources of nitrate.
nitrate, isotopes, nitrogen, horse
Date of this Version
Michalski, Greg; Earman, Sam; Dahman, Christa; Hershey, Rodney L.; and Mihevc, Todd, "Multiple isotope forensics of nitrate in a wild horse poisoning incident" (2010). Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Faculty Publications. Paper 63.
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