Ecosystems

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 0020–0030

Nitrogen Removal by Riparian Buffers along a European Climatic Gradient: Patterns and Factors of Variation

  • Sergi Sabater
  • Andrea Butturini
  • Jean-Christophe Clement
  • Tim Burt
  • David Dowrick
  • Mariet Hefting
  • Véronique Matre
  • Gilles Pinay
  • Carmen Postolache
  • Marek Rzepecki
  • Francesc Sabater

DOI: 10.1007/s10021-002-0183-8

Cite this article as:
Sabater, S., Butturini, A., Clement, J. et al. Ecosystems (2003) 6: 0020. doi:10.1007/s10021-002-0183-8

Abstract

We evaluated nitrogen (N) removal efficiency by riparian buffers at 14 sites scattered throughout seven European countries subject to a wide range of climatic conditions. The sites also had a wide range of nitrate inputs, soil characteristics, and vegetation types. Dissolved forms of N in groundwater and associated hydrological parameters were measured at all sites; these data were used to calculate nitrate removal by the riparian buffers. Nitrate removal rates (expressed as the difference between the input and output nitrate concentration in relation to the width of the riparian zone) were mainly positive, ranging from 5% m−1 to 30% m−1, except for a few sites where the values were close to zero. Average N removal rates were similar for herbaceous (4.43% m−1) and forested (4.21% m−1) sites. Nitrogen removal efficiency was not affected by climatic variation between sites, and no significant seasonal pattern was detected. When nitrate inputs were low, a very large range of nitrate removal efficiencies was found both in the forested and in the nonforested sites. However, sites receiving nitrate inputs above 5 mg N L−1 showed an exponential negative decay of nitrate removal efficiency (nitrate removal efficiency = 33.6 e−0.11 NO3input, r2 = 0.33, P < 0.001). Hydraulic gradient was also negatively related to nitrate removal (r = −0.27, P < 0.05) at these sites. On the basis of this intersite comparison, we conclude that the removal of nitrate by biological mechanisms (for example, denitrification, plant uptake) in the riparian areas is related more closely to nitrate load and hydraulic gradient than to climatic parameters.

Key words: nitrate removal; riparian buffers; vegetation; denitrification; temperature; climatic conditions.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sergi Sabater
    • 1
  • Andrea Butturini
    • 1
  • Jean-Christophe Clement
    • 2
  • Tim Burt
    • 3
  • David Dowrick
    • 3
  • Mariet Hefting
    • 4
  • Véronique Matre
    • 5
  • Gilles Pinay
    • 3
  • Carmen Postolache
    • 6
  • Marek Rzepecki
    • 7
  • Francesc Sabater
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Faculty of Biology, Avgda. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, SpainES
  2. 2.UMR 6553 ECOBIO, University of Rennes I, Avenue du Général Leclerc, F-35042 Rennes, FranceFR
  3. 3.Department of Geography, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, EnglandGB
  4. 4.Department of Geobotany, Utrecht University, Wentgebouw, Sorbonnelaan 16, 3584 CA Utrecht, The NetherlandsNL
  5. 5.Laboratory of Geology (GEOLEP), Civil Engineering Department, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 1015 Lausanne, SwitzerlandCH
  6. 6.Department of Systems Ecology and Management of Natural Capital, University of Bucharest, 91–95 Splaine Independentei Avenue, 5 Bucharest, RomaniaRO
  7. 7.Institute of Ecology PAN, Konopnickiedj 1, Dziekanow Lesny, 05-092 Lomianki, PolandPL