Water quality in the eastern karst region of the Yucatan Peninsula: nutrients and stable nitrogen isotopes in turtle grass, Thalassia testudinum

Karla A. Camacho-Cruz, Ma Concepción Ortiz-Hernández, Alberto Sánchez, Laura Carrillo, Alberto De Jesús Navarrete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Water quality in the Mexican Caribbean is affected by increases in tourism infrastructure and poor wastewater treatment. Additionally, karst geomorphology facilitates the infiltration of organic matter to subterranean water and coastal fresh water that originates from submarine groundwater discharges (SGDs), altering the environment. The tourism infrastructure grows at different rates along the Caribbean coast, characterizing zones with diverse levels of tourism impact. The aim of this work was to measure nutrient concentrations in superficial coastal water and fresh water to evaluate the water quality through different zones along a gradient from intermediate- (Riviera Maya) to low-tourism (Costa Maya) development regions. Furthermore, this study aimed to compare the measured nutrient concentrations with the Mexican ecological criteria of water quality 001/89 (CE-CCA-001/89), detect possible contributions by SGDs, and determine whether the nitrogen (N) sources are anthropogenic using stable nitrogen isotopes in the seagrass Thalassia testudinum. According to the results, nutrient concentrations (ammonium, nitrate, nitrite, and orthophosphate) differed significantly between the Riviera Maya and Costa Maya (P = 0.0001). Sites such as Shambala, Chávez, Tankah, Mahahual 2, Tulum, Akumal, and Xahuayxol exceeded the upper levels set by the CE-CCA-001/89. Tankah, Shambala, and Chávez were influenced by SGDs. The nitrogen isotope ratio in Akumal and Tulum coast water shows that they are under N loading derived to the sewage percentage of δ15N in Akumal, Tulum, and Mahahual, showing that these sites suffer N loading due to sewage. Our study recommends continuous monitoring and coastal characterization to detect SGD and to regulate, treat, and dispose of sewage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15967-15983
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number14
StatePublished - 1 May 2020


  • Marine pollution
  • Submarine groundwater discharges
  • Tourism impact on the Mexican Caribbean
  • Turtle grass
  • Wastewater

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