Rapid Nitrate Loss and Denitrification in a Temperate River Floodplain Article Received: 09 April 2004 Accepted: 09 November 2004 DOI:
Cite this article as: Forshay, K.J. & Stanley, E.H. Biogeochemistry (2005) 75: 43. doi:10.1007/s10533-004-6016-4 Abstract
Nitrogen (N) pollution is a problem in many large temperate zone rivers, and N retention in river channels is often small in these systems. To determine the potential for floodplains to act as N sinks during overbank flooding, we combined monitoring, denitrification assays, and experimental nitrate (NO
-N) additions to determine how the amount and form of N changed during flooding and the processes responsible for these changes in the Wisconsin River floodplain (USA). Spring flooding increased N concentrations in the floodplain to levels equal to the river. As discharge declined and connectivity between the river and floodplain was disrupted, total dissolved N decreased over 75% from 1.41 mg l 3 − −1, equivalent to source water in the Wisconsin River on 14 April 2001, to 0.34 mg l −1 on 22 April 2001. Simultaneously NO -N was attenuated almost 100% from 1.09 to <0.002 mg l 3 − −1. Unamended sediment denitrification rates were moderate (0–483 μg m −2 h −1) and seasonally variable, and activity was limited by the availability of NO -N on all dates. Two experimental NO 3 − -N pulse additions to floodplain water bodies confirmed rapid NO 3 − -N depletion. Over 80% of the observed NO 3 − -N decline was caused by hydrologic export for addition #1 but only 22% in addition #2. During the second addition, a significant fraction (>60%) of NO 3 − -N mass loss was not attributable to hydrologic losses or conversion to other forms of N, suggesting that denitrification was likely responsible for most of the NO 3 − -N disappearance. Floodplain capacity to decrease the dominant fraction of river borne N within days of inundation demonstrates that the Wisconsin River floodplain was an active N sink, that denitrification often drives N losses, and that enhancing connections between rivers and their floodplains may enhance overall retention and reduce N exports from large basins. 3 − Keywords Denitrification Flooding Mass balance Nitrogen Retention Wisconsin River References Baker, M.A., Vervier, P. 2004 Hydrological variability, organic matter supply and denitrification in the Garonne River ecosystem Freshwater Biol. 49 181 190 CrossRef Google Scholar Bohlke, J.K., Denver, J.M. 1995 Combined use of groundwater dating, chemical, and isotopic analyses to resolve the history and fate of nitrate contamination in 2 agricultural watersheds, Atlantic Coastal-Plain, Maryland Water Resour. 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