, Volume 77, Issue 3, pp 305-326

Nitrogen Behaviour and Nitrous Oxide Emission in the Tidal Seine River Estuary (France) as Influenced by Human Activities in the Upstream Watershed

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Abstract

The Seine River estuary (France) is the receptacle of a drainage basin characterised by high population density, heavy industrial activity and intensive agriculture. Whereas nitrate concentrations are high due to diffuse sources in the upstream drainage basin, ammonium mainly originates from the effluents of the Achères wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) downstream from Paris and its suburbs (6.5 million equivalent-inhabitants). Ammonium is mostly nitrified in the tidal freshwater estuary and nitrification causes a strong summer oxygen deficit. Average longitudinal summer profiles of oxygen and nitrogen concentrations for two periods, between 1993–1997 and 1998–2003 in dry hydrological conditions (excluding the wet years 2000 and 2001) clearly reflect the changes due to the improved treatment of wastewater from Paris and its suburbs. On the basis of daily water flux data and twice monthly nitrogen measurements at the boundaries of the upstream freshwater estuarine section (108 km), we calculated nitrification and denitrification fluxes, whose annual averages were 43 and 71 × 103 kg N d−1 respectively from 1993 to 2003, with summer values (July–September) representing 73 and 57% of the annual fluxes, respectively. The degree of denitrification in the upper estuary appears to be closely related to the nitrification, itself more loosely related to the amount of reduced nitrogen (Kjeldahl) brought by the treated effluents from the Achères WWTP. We estimated the total N2O emissions to about 40 kg N d−1 (25–60 kg N d−1) in the same sector.