Sources of Nitrogen to the Riparian Zone of a Desert Stream: Implications for Riparian Vegetation and Nitrogen Retention
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Riparian zones effectively remove nitrogen (N) from water flowing through riparian soils, particularly in agricultural watersheds. The mechanism of N removal is still unclear, especially the role of vegetation. Uptake and denitrification are the two most commonly studied mechanisms. Retention of groundwater N by plant uptake is often inferred from measurements of N in net incremental biomass. However, this assumes other sources of N are not contributing to the N demand of plants. The purpose of this work was to investigate the relative importance of three sources of available N to riparian trees in a desert stream—input in stream water during floods, input during baseflow, and mineralization of N from soil organic matter. Two approaches were used; a mass balance approach in which the mass of available N from each source was estimated, and a correlational approach in which indexes of each source were compared to leaf N for individual willow trees. Total N from all sources was 396 kg ha−1 y−1, with 172 kg ha−1 y−1 from mineralization, 214 kg ha−1 y−1 from the stream during baseflow, and 9.6 kg ha−1 y−1 from floods. Leaf N was significantly related to N mineralization rates and flood inputs; it was not related to baseflow inputs. We conclude that mineralization is a major source of available N for willow trees, subsidized by input of N from floods. Baseflow inputs are most likely removed by rapid denitrification at the stream–riparian edge, while higher rates of flood supply exceed the capacity of this “filter.”
- Sources of Nitrogen to the Riparian Zone of a Desert Stream: Implications for Riparian Vegetation and Nitrogen Retention
Volume 5, Issue 1 , pp 68-79
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- Key words: riparian zone; nitrogen retention; denitrification; plant uptake; N mineralization; desert stream.