Biogeochemistry

, Volume 90, Issue 1, pp 65–73 | Cite as

Iron interference in the quantification of nitrate in soil extracts and its effect on hypothesized abiotic immobilization of nitrate

Original Paper

Abstract

Human alteration of the nitrogen cycle has stimulated research on nitrogen cycling in many aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, where analyses of nitrate (NO3) by standard laboratory methods are common. A recent study by Colman et al. (Biogeochemistry 84:161–169, 2007) identified a potential analytical interference of soluble iron (Fe) with NO3 quantification by standard flow-injection analysis of soil extracts, and suggested that this interference may have led Dail et al. (Biogeochemistry 54:131–146, 2001) to make an erroneous assessment of abiotic nitrate immobilization in prior 15N pool dilution studies of Harvard Forest soils. In this paper, we reproduce the Fe interference problem systematically and show that it is likely related to dissolved, complexed-Fe interfering with the colorimetric analysis of NO2. We also show how standard additions of NO3 and NO2 to soil extracts at native dissolved Fe concentrations reveal when the Fe interference problem occurs, and permit the assessment of its significance for past, present, and future analyses. We demonstrate low soluble Fe concentrations and good recovery of standard additions of NO3 and NO2 in extracts of sterilized Harvard Forest soils. Hence, we maintain that rapid NO3 immobilization occurred in sterilized samples of the Harvard Forest O horizon in the study by Dail et al. (2001). Furthermore, additional evidence is accumulating in the literature for rapid disappearance of NO3 added to soils, suggesting that our observations were not the result of an isolated analytical artifact. The conditions for NO3 reduction are likely to be highly dependent on microsite properties, both in situ and in the laboratory. The so-called “ferrous wheel hypothesis” (Davidson et al., Glob Chang Biol 9:228–236, 2003) remains an unproven, viable explanation for published observations.

Keywords

Iron Nitrate Nitrite Nitrogen Soil extracts Abiotic immobilization Ferrous wheel hypothesis 

References

  1. Alpkem Corporation (1990) Method A303-S170. RFA methodology: nitrate+nitrite nitrogen. Alpkem Corporation, ClackamasGoogle Scholar
  2. APHA (1989) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 17th edn. American Public Health Association, American Water Works Association, Water Pollution Control Federation, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  3. Berntson GM, Aber JD (2000) The importance of fast nitrate immobilization in N-saturated temperate forest soils. Soil Biol Biochem 32:151–156. doi:10.1016/S0038-0717(99)00132-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bundy LG, Meisinger JJ (1994) Nitrogen availability indices. In: Weaver RW, Angle JS, Bottomley PS (eds) Methods of soil analysis part 2—microbiological and biochemical properties. Soil Science Society of America, Madison, pp 951–984Google Scholar
  5. Colman BP, Fierer N, Schimel JP (2007) Abiotic nitrate incorporation in soil: is it real? Biogeochemistry 84:161–169. doi:10.1007/s10533-007-9111-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Compton J, Boone RD (2002) Soil nitrogen transformations and the role of light fraction organic matter in forest soils. Soil Biol Biochem 34:933–943. doi:10.1016/S0038-0717(02)00025-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Corre MD, Beese Friedrich O, Brumme R (2003) Soil Nitrogen cycle in high nitrogen deposition forest: changes under nitrogen saturation and liming. Ecol Appl 13:287–298. doi:10.1890/1051-0761(2003)013[0287:SNCIHN]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Corre MD, Dechert G, Veldkamp E (2006) Soil nitrogen cycling following montane forest conversion in central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Soil Sci Soc Am J 70:359–366. doi:10.2136/sssaj2005.0061 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Corre MD, Brumme R, Veldkamp E, Beese FO (2007) Changes in nitrogen cycling and retention processes in soils under spruce forests along a nitrogen enrichment gradient in Germany. Glob Chang Biol 13:1509–1527. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2007.01371.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dail DB, Davidson EA, Chorover J (2001) Rapid abiotic transformation of nitrate in an acid forest soil. Biogeochemistry 54:131–146. doi:10.1023/A:1010627431722 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davidson EA, Schimel JP (1995) Microbial processes of production and consumption of nitric oxide, nitrous oxide and methane. In: Matson PA, Harriss RC (eds) Biogenic trace gases: measuring emissions from soil and water. Blackwell Science, Oxford, pp 327–357Google Scholar
  12. Davidson EA, Hart SC, Shanks CA, Firestone MK (1991) Measuring gross nitrogen mineralization, immobilization, and nitrification by 15N isotopic pool dilution in intact soil cores. Eur J Soil Sci 42:335–349. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2389.1991.tb00413.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davidson EA, Chorover J, Dail DB (2003) A mechanism of abiotic immobilization of nitrate in forest ecosystems: the ferrous wheel hypothesis. Glob Chang Biol 9:228–236. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2486.2003.00592.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Galloway JN, Dentener FJ, Capone DG, Boyer EW, Howarth RW, Seitzinger SP et al (2004) Nitrogen cycles: past, present and future. Biogeochemistry 70:153–226. doi:10.1007/s10533-004-0370-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hall SJ, Matson PA (2003) Nutrient status of tropical rain forests influences soil N dynamics after N additions. Ecol Monogr 73:107–129. doi:10.1890/0012-9615(2003)073[0107:NSOTRF]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Herzsprung P, Duffek A, Friese K, de Rechter M, Schultze M, Tumpling WV Jr (2005) Modification of a continuous flow method for analysis of trace amounts of nitrate in iron-rich sediment pore-waters of mine pit lakes. Water Res 39:1887–1895. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2005.02.017 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Huygens D, Boeckx P, Godoy R, Templer PH, Paulino L, Van Cleemput O, Oyarzún C, Müller C, Godoy R (2008) Mechanisms for retention of bioavailable nitrogen in volcanic rainforest soils. Nat Geosci 1:543–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lotrario JB, Stuart BJ, Lam T, Arands RR, O’Connor OA, Kosson DS (1995) Effects of sterilization methods on the physical characteristics of soil: implications for sorption isotherm analyses. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 54:668–675. doi:10.1007/BF00206097 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Magill AH, Aber JD, Currie WS, Nadelhoffer KJ, Martin ME, McDowell WH et al (2004) Ecosystem response to 15 years of chronic nitrogen additions at the Harvard Forest LTER, Massachusetts, USA. For Ecol Manage 196:7–28. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2004.03.033 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Micks P, Aber JD, Davidson EA, Boone RD (2004) Short-term soil respiration and nitrogen immobilization response to nitrogen applications in control and nitrogen-enriched temperate forests. For Ecol Manage 196:57–70. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2004.03.012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mulvaney RL (1996) Nitrogen—inorganic forms. In: Sparks DL (ed) Methods of soil analysis, part 3—chemical methods. Soil Science Society of America and American Society of Agronomy, Madison, pp 1123–1184Google Scholar
  22. Nydahl F (1976) On the optimum conditions for the reduction of nitrate to nitrite by cadmium. Talanta 23:349–357. doi:10.1016/0039-9140(76)80047-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ottley CJ, Davidson W, Edmunds WM (1997) Chemical catalysis of nitrate reduction by iron(II). Geochim Cosmochim Acta 61:1819–1828. doi:10.1016/S0016-7037(97)00058-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Patton CJ, Fischer AE, Campbell WH, Campbell ER (2002) Corn leaf nitrate reductase—a nontoxic alternative to cadmium for photometric nitrate determinations in water samples by air-segmented continuous-flow analysis. Environ Sci Technol 36:729–735. doi:10.1021/es011132a CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Perakis SS, Hedin LO (2001) Fluxes and fates of nitrogen in soil of an unpolluted old-growth temperate forest, southern Chile. Ecology 82:2245–2260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sotta ED, Corre MD, Veldkamp E (2008) Differing N status and N retention processes of soils under old-growth lowland forest in Eastern Amazonia, Caxiuana, Brazil. Soil Biol Biochem 40:740–750. doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2007.10.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Stumm W, Morgan JJ (1996) Aquatic chemistry: chemical equilibria and rates in natural waters, 3rd edn. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. UNEP and WHRC (2007) Reactive nitrogen in the environment: too much or too little of a good thing. In: Davidson EA, Arden-Clarke C, Braun E (eds) The United Nations environment programme, Paris, FranceGoogle Scholar
  29. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1983) Nitrogen, nitrate-nitrite. Method 353.2 (colorimetric, automated, cadmium reduction). Methods for chemical analysis of water and wastes, EPA-600/4-79-020. USEPA, Cincinnati, pp 353-352.351–353-352.355Google Scholar
  30. Van Cleemput O, Baert L (1983) Nitrite stability influenced by iron compounds. Soil Biol Biochem 15:137–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Zogg P, Zak D, Pregitzer K, Burton A (2000) Microbial immobilization and the retention of anthropogenic nitrate in a northern hardwood forest. Ecology 81:1858–1866Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric A. Davidson
    • 1
  • D. Bryan Dail
    • 2
  • Jon Chorover
    • 3
  1. 1.The Woods Hole Research CenterFalmouthUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plant, Soil, and Environmental SciencesUniversity of MaineOronoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Soil, Water and Environmental ScienceUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

Personalised recommendations