Fecal sterol and bile acid biomarkers: Runoff concentrations in animal waste-amended pastures

Punam Tyagi, Dwayne R. Edwards, Mark S. Coyne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Nonpoint source pollution is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems. The extent of NPS pollution is often more difficult or expensive to monitor at the point(s) of origin, as compared to monitoring of point sources. This study evaluated the hypothesis that animal manure (chicken, cow, horse, and pig) applied to pasture contribute fecal sterols and bile acids to runoff. The study also assessed the potential benefit of fecal sterols and bile acids as biomarkers in distinguishing fecal pollution and its sources. Fecal sterol and bile acid concentrations were determined in flow-weighted composite runoff samples collected from 2.4∈×∈6.1 m plots (n∈=∈3) amended with manure. Runoff was generated from simulated rainfall (152 mm.h -1). Runoff samples from manure-amended plots showed high concentrations of fecal sterol (ranged from 13∈±∈1 to 1,287∈±∈183) and bile acid (ranged from 24∈±∈1 to 2,251∈±∈248) biomarkers. The profiles of fecal sterols and bile acids in runoff samples were similar to those of fresh manure for all selected animals. For runoff and fresh manure, chenodeoxycholic acid, deoxycholic acid, epicoprostanol, and hyodeoxycholic acid were consistent biomarkers for chicken, cow, horse, and pig, respectively, suggesting that sterols and bile acids can be used to identify sources and occurrence of fecal matter in water and sediments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-54
Number of pages10
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Mar 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgement We acknowledge the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Kentucky, USA for funding this work; the individuals who collected the fecal and runoff samples, and the associated departments for allowing the fecal samples to be part of this work. John May (lab technician) of ERTL, UKY is thanked for his technical assistance in using GC–MS.


  • Fecal bile acids
  • Fecal sterols
  • GC-MS
  • Liquid-liquid extraction
  • Manure
  • Run-off

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution


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