Biogeochemistry

, Volume 111, Issue 1–3, pp 535–554 | Cite as

Dominance of biologically produced nitrate in upland waters of Great Britain indicated by stable isotopes

  • Chris J. Curtis
  • Timothy H. E. Heaton
  • Gavin L. Simpson
  • Chris D. Evans
  • James Shilland
  • Simon Turner
Article

Abstract

Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen (N) compounds is the major source of anthropogenic N to most upland ecosystems, where leaching of nitrate (NO3) into surface waters contributes to eutrophication and acidification as well as indicating an excess of N in the terrestrial catchment ecosystems. Natural abundance stable isotopes ratios, 15N/14N and 18O/16O (the “dual isotope” technique) have previously been used in biogeochemical studies of alpine and forested ecosystems to demonstrate that most of the NO3 in upland surface waters has been microbially produced. Here we present an application of the technique to four moorland catchments in the British uplands including a comparison of lakes and their stream inflows at two sites. The NO3 concentrations of bulk deposition and surface waters at three sites are very similar. While noting the constraints imposed by uncertainty in the precise δ18O value for microbial NO3, however, we estimate that 79–98% of the annual mean NO3 has been microbially produced. Direct leaching of atmospheric NO3 is a minor component of catchment NO3 export, although greater than in many similar studies in forested watersheds. A greater proportion of atmospheric NO3 is seen in the two lake sites relative to their inflow streams, demonstrating the importance of direct NO3 deposition to lake surfaces in catchments where terrestrial ecosystems intercept a large proportion of deposited N. The dominance of microbial sources of NO3 in upland waters suggests that reduced and oxidised N deposition may have similar implications in terms of contributing to NO3 leaching.

Keywords

Nitrate leaching Nitrification 1815Uplands Lakes N deposition 

Supplementary material

10533_2011_9686_MOESM1_ESM.doc (336 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 335 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris J. Curtis
    • 1
  • Timothy H. E. Heaton
    • 2
  • Gavin L. Simpson
    • 1
  • Chris D. Evans
    • 3
  • James Shilland
    • 1
  • Simon Turner
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Change Research Centre, Geography DepartmentUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.NERC Isotope Geosciences LaboratoryBritish Geological SurveyNottinghamUK
  3. 3.Centre for Ecology and HydrologyEnvironment Centre WalesWalesUK

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