, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 123-142

First online:

Dissolved organic nitrogen budgets for upland, forested ecosystems in New England

  • John L. CampbellAffiliated withNortheastern Research Station, USDA Forest Service
  • , James W. HornbeckAffiliated withNortheastern Research Station, USDA Forest Service
  • , William H. McDowellAffiliated withDepartment of Natural Resources, University of New Hampshire
  • , Donald C. BusoAffiliated withInstitute of Ecosystem Studies
  • , James B. ShanleyAffiliated withUS Geological Survey
  • , Gene E. LikensAffiliated withInstitute of Ecosystem Studies

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Relatively high deposition ofnitrogen (N) in the northeastern United States hascaused concern because sites could become N saturated.In the past, mass-balance studies have been used tomonitor the N status of sites and to investigate theimpact of increased N deposition. Typically, theseefforts have focused on dissolved inorganic forms ofN (DIN = NH4-N + NO3-N) and have largelyignored dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) due todifficulties in its analysis. Recent advances in themeasurement of total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) havefacilitated measurement of DON as the residual of TDN− DIN. We calculated DON and DIN budgets using data onprecipitation and streamwater chemistry collected from9 forested watersheds at 4 sites in New England. TDNin precipitation was composed primarily of DIN. Netretention of TDN ranged from 62 to 89% (4.7 to 10 kghaminus 1 yrminus 1) of annual inputs. DON made up themajority of TDN in stream exports, suggesting thatinclusion of DON is critical to assessing N dynamicseven in areas with large anthropogenic inputs of DIN.Despite the dominance of DON in streamwater,precipitation inputs of DON were approximately equalto outputs. DON concentrations in streamwater did notappear significantly influenced by seasonal biologicalcontrols, but did increase with discharge on somewatersheds. Streamwater NO3-N was the onlyfraction of N that exhibited a seasonal pattern, withconcentrations increasing during the winter months andpeaking during snowmelt runoff. Concentrations ofNO3-N varied considerably among watersheds andare related to DOC:DON ratios in streamwater. AnnualDIN exports were negatively correlated withstreamwater DOC:DON ratios, indicating that theseratios might be a useful index of N status of uplandforests.

C:N ratio dissolved organic carbon dissolved organic nitrogen nitrogen stream chemistry watershed