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Toxicity of nitrogenous fertilizers to eggs of snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) in field and laboratory exposures

Authors

  • Shane Raymond de Solla,

    Corresponding author
    1. Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Box 5050, 867 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, Ontario, L7R 4A6
    • Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Box 5050, 867 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, Ontario, L7R 4A6
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  • Pamela Anne Martin

    1. Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Box 5050, 867 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, Ontario, L7R 4A6
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Abstract

Many reptiles oviposit in soil of agricultural landscapes. We evaluated the toxicity of two commonly used nitrogenous fertilizers, urea and ammonium nitrate, on the survivorship of exposed snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) eggs. Eggs were incubated in a community garden plot in which urea was applied to the soil at realistic rates of up to 200 kg/ha in 2004, and ammonium nitrate was applied at rates of up to 2,000 kg/ha in 2005. Otherwise, the eggs were unmanipulated and were subject to ambient temperature and weather conditions. Eggs were also exposed in the laboratory in covered bins so as to minimize loss of nitrogenous compounds through volatilization or leaching from the soil. Neither urea nor ammonium nitrate had any impact on hatching success or development when exposed in the garden plot, despite overt toxicity of ammonium nitrate to endogenous plants. Both laboratory exposures resulted in reduced hatching success, lower body mass at hatching, and reduced posthatching survival compared to controls. The lack of toxicity of these fertilizers in the field was probably due to leaching in the soil and through atmospheric loss. In general, we conclude that nitrogenous fertilizers probably have little direct impacts on turtle eggs deposited in agricultural landscapes.

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