, Volume 774, Issue 1, pp 167–182 | Cite as

Nitrogen removal in an afforested riparian zone: the contribution of denitrification processes



Afforested riparian zone can provide important services beyond forestry, such as the removal of nitrogen from diffuse pollution. Within the Venice Lagoon watershed, a pilot experimental scale system was designed to manage and monitor the hydrological fluxes and quantify N removal processes. The main objectives of this research, carried out from 2008 to 2010, were (i) to analyze “in situ” and potential denitrification rates and their limiting factors, (ii) to compare present rates, in a maturation stage of the riparian forest, with those measured in 2002. To achieve these objectives, we quantified: (i) the “in situ” denitrification process, (ii) the soil potential denitrification activity, and (iii) the nitrogen removal rates. The highest rates of “in situ” denitrification were recorded in the medium soil layer, but we observed a rate decrease compared to the initial phase (2002). Denitrification potential was significantly higher in the top soil layer. In the medium layer, the availability of organic carbon was limiting, although there was a slight increase of organic carbon near the irrigation ditch. Denitrification, carbon availability and bacterial activities remained low in the deeper soil layer.


Nitrogen removal Wooded buffer system In situ denitrification process Denitrification enzymatic activity Riparian buffer Groundwater Phyto-depuration 



This work was supported by Consorzio di Bonifica Acque Risorgive, Regione Veneto and Veneto Agricoltura. We thank Dr. Paolo Cornelio for his continuously assistance and support. We thank the Environmental Protection Agency of the Veneto Region for the soil and water analysis. We are very grateful to prof. Sergio Casella and DAFNE Department of the University of Padua for useful and fruitful scientific exchanges, for his continued support and finally for the supervision of the PhD thesis from which this work has been extracted: Boz, B., 2011. Denitrification activity and denitrifying population dynamic in the soil of a wooded riparian strip. PhD thesis at Padua University Italy. http://paduaresearch.cab.unipd.it.


  1. Ambus, P. & S. Zechmeinster-Boltenstern, 2007. Denitrification and N-cycling. In Bothe, H., S. J. Ferguson & W. E. Newton (eds), Biology of the Nitrogen Cycle. Elsevier B.V, Amsterdam: 343–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. APHA AWWA WEF, 2005a. Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater; 4500-NO2 Pages 4-118–4-119, 21st ed. American Public Health Association, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  3. APHA AWWA WEF, 2005b. Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater; 4500-NH3 Page 4-114, 21st ed. American Public Health Association, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  4. Brookes, P. C., A. Landman, G. Pruden & D. S. Jenkinson, 1985. Chloroform fumigation and the release of soil nitrogen: a rapid direct extraction method to measure microbial biomass nitrogen in soil. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 17(6): 837–842.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boz, B. & B. Gumiero, 2008, River Restoration integrated actions to reduce river Zero nitrate input to Venice Lagoon. In Gumiero, Rinaldi & Fokkens (eds) In 4th ECRR Conference on River Restoration, p. 1074. Proceedings.Google Scholar
  6. Boz, B., M. R. Mizanur, M. Bottegal, M. Basaglia, A. Squartini, B. Gumiero & S. Casella, 2013. Vegetation, soil and hydrology management influence denitrification activity and the composition of nirK-type denitrifier communities in a newly afforested riparian buffer. New Biotechnology 30(6): 675–684.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Burt, T. P., G. Pinay, F. E. Matheson, N. E. Haycock, A. Butturini, J. C. Clement, S. Danielescu, D. J. Dowrick, M. M. Hefting, A. Hillbricht-Ilkowska & V. Maitre, 2002. Water table fluctuations in the riparian zone: comparative results from a pan-European experiment. Journal of Hydrology 265: 129–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chescheir, C. M., R. W. Skaggs, J. W. Gilliam & R. G. Broadhead, 1988. Hydrology of wetland buffer areas for pumped agricultural drainage water. In Hook, D. D. (ed.), The Ecology and Management of Wetlands. Timber Press, Portland: 260–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Correll, D. L. & D. E. Weller, 1989. Factors limiting processes in freshwater wetlands: an agricultural primary stream riparian forest. In Sharitz, R. R. & J. W. Gibbons (eds), Freshwater Wetlands and Wildlife. USDOE, Oak Ridge: 9–23.Google Scholar
  10. Dosskey, M. G. & P. M. Bertsch, 1994. Forest sources and pathways of organic matter transport to a blackwater stream: a hydrologic approach. Biogeochemistry 24: 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Groffman, P. M., E. Holland, D. D. Myrold, G. P. Robertson & X. Zou, 1999. Denitrification. In Robertson, G. P., C. S. Bledsoe, D. C. Coleman & P. Sollins (eds), Standard Soil Methods for Long Term Ecological Research. Oxford University Press, New York: 272–288.Google Scholar
  12. Gumiero, B., B. Boz & P. Cornelio, 2010. River Restoration and Sustainable Agriculture in the Venice Lagoon Basin: the Nicolas project. In Eulisse E., M. Hemmami & E. Koopmanschap (eds), Sustainable Use of Water in Agriculture: Indicators and Trends for Water Resources Conservation, proceedings of the 3rd Marie Curie training course “European Sustainable Water Goals”, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia-Centro Internazionale Civiltà dell’Acqua.Google Scholar
  13. Gumiero, B., B. Boz, P. Cornelio & S. Casella, 2011a. Shallow groundwater nitrogen and denitrification in a newly afforested, sub-irrigated riparian buffer. Journal of Applied Ecology 48: 1135–1144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gumiero, B., P. Cornelio & B. Boz, 2011b. Nitrogen removal by an irrigated wooded buffer area, Water Practice and Technology, published on line.Google Scholar
  15. Hedin, L. O., J. C. von Fischer, N. E. Ostrom, B. P. Kennedy, M. G. Brown & G. P. Robertson, 1998. Thermodynamic constraints on nitrogen transformations and other biochemical processes at soil-stream interfaces. Ecology 79: 684–703.Google Scholar
  16. Hefting, M. M. & J. J. M. de Klein, 1998. Nitrogen removal in buffer strips along a lowland stream in the Netherlands: a pilot study. Environmental Pollution 102: 521–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hefting, M. M., J. C. Clement, P. Bienkowski, D. Dowrick, C. Guenat, A. Butturini, S. Topa, G. Pinay & J. T. A. Verhoeven, 2005. The role of vegetation and litter in the nitrogen dynamics of riparian buffer zones in Europe. Ecological Engineering 24: 465–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hunt, P. G., T. A. Matheny & K. C. Stone, 2004. Denitrification in a coastal plain riparian zone contiguous to a heavily loaded swine wastewater spray field. Journal of Environmental Quality 33: 2367–2374.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Hunt, P. G., T. A. Matheny & K. S. Ro, 2007. Nitrous oxide accumulation in soils from Riparian Buffers of a Coastal Plain Watershed – Carbon/Nitrogen ratio control. Journal of Environmental Quality 36: 1368–1376.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Jenkinson, D. S. & D. S. Poulson, 1976. The effects of biocidal treatments on metabolism in soil-V. A method for measuring soil biomass. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 8: 209–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jobbagy, E. G. & R. B. Jackson, 2000. The vertical distribution of soil organic carbon and its relation to climate and vegetation. Ecological Applications 10(2): 423–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lee, C. G., T. D. Fletcher & G. Sun, 2009. Nitrogen removal in constructed wetland systems. Engineering in Life Sciences 9: 11–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lowrance, R. R., L. S. Altier, J. D. Newbold, R. R. Schnabel, P. M. Groffman, J. M. Denver, D. L. Correll, J. W. Gilliam, J. L. Robinson, R. B. Brinsfield, K. V. Staver, W. Lucas & A. H. Todd, 1997. Water quality functions of riparian forest buffer systems in Chesapeake Bay watersheds. Environmental Management 21: 687–712.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Mastrocicco, M., B. Boz, N. Colombani, G. M. Carrer, M. Bonato & B. Gumiero, 2014. Modelling groundwater residence time in a sub-irrigated buffer zone. Ecohydrology 7: 1054–1063.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McGill, B. M., A. E. Sutton-Grier & J. P. Wright, 2010. Plant trait diversity buffers variability in denitrification potential over changes in season and soil conditions. PLoS ONE 5: e11618.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Menyailo, O. V., B. A. Hungate & W. Zech, 2002. The effect of a single tree species on soil microbial activity related to C and N cycling in the Siberian artificial afforestation experiment. Plant and Soil 242: 183–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mizanur, M. R., M. Basaglia, E. Vendramin, B. Boz, B. Gumiero & S. Casella, 2014. Bacterial diversity of a wooded riparian strip soil specifically designed for enhancing denitrification process. Biology and Fertility of Soils 50: 25–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Munch, J. C. & G. L. Velthof, 2007. Denitrification and Agriculture. In Bothe, H., S. J. Ferguson & W. E. Newton (eds), Biology of the Nitrogen Cycle. Elsevier B.V, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  29. Nelson, D. W. & L. E. Sommers, 1982. Total carbon, organic carbon and organic matter, Met. 29-2 pages 542–553, Methods of soil analysis – Part 2 Chemical and Microbiological Properties, 2nd edition, ASA – SSSA.Google Scholar
  30. Pfaff J.D., D. P. Hautman & D. J. Munch, 1997. Method 300.1 Determination of inorganic anions in drinking water by ion chromatography. Cincinnati Ohio, USEPA. ORD. NERL.Google Scholar
  31. Pinay, G. & T. Burt, 2001. Nitrogen control by landscape structures. Final report, grant ENV4-CT97-0395, European Commission (DG XII), Brussels.Google Scholar
  32. Pinay, G., V. J. Black, A. M. Planty-Tabacchi, B. Gumiero & H. Décamps, 2000. Geomorphic control of denitrification in large river floodplain soils. Biogeochemistry 30: 9–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pinay, G., T. Burt & B. Gumiero, 2006. Floodplains in river Ecosystems. In Ziglio, G., M. Siligardi & G. Flaim (eds), Biological Monitoring of Rivers. John Wiley and Sons Ltd, Chichester.Google Scholar
  34. Pinay, G., B. Gumiero, E. Tabacchi, O. Gimenez, A. M. Tabacchi-Planty, M. M. Hefting, T. P. Burt, V. A. Black, C. Nilsson, V. Iordache, F. Bure, L. Vought, G. Petts & H. Décamps, 2007. Patterns of denitrification rates in European alluvial soils under various hydrological regimes. Freshwater Biology 52(2): 252–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rennenberg, H., M. Dannenmann, A. Gessler, J. Kreuzwieser, J. Simon & H. Papen, 2009. Nitrogen balance in forest soils: nutritional limitation of plants under climate change stresses. Plant Biology 11(suppl.1): 4–23.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Romanowizc, A., F. Daffner, R. Uhel & J. L. Weber, 2006. European Environment Agency Developments of Land and Ecosystem Accounts: General Overview. http://www.iiisci.org/journal/CV$/sci/pdfs/M567EH.pdf.
  37. Sabater, S., A. Butturini, J. C. Clement, T. P. Burt, D. Dowrick, M. M. Hefting, V. Maitre, G. Pinay, C. Postolache, M. Rzepecki & F. Sabater, 2003. Nitrogen removal by riparian buffers along a European climatic gradient: patterns and factors of variation. Ecosystems 6: 20–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schimel, J. P. & J. Bennett, 2004. Nitrogen mineralization: challenges of a changing paradigm. Ecology 77: 2142–2147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smith, M. S. & J. M. Tiedje, 1979. Phases of denitrification following oxygen depletion in soil. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 11: 261–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tockner, K., C. T. Robinson & U. Uehlinger (eds), 2009. Rivers of Europe. Elsevier/Academic Press, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  41. Tockner, K., M. Pusch, D. Borchardt & M. Lorang, 2010. Multiple stressors in coupled river–floodplain ecosystems. Freshwater Biology 55(1): 131–135.Google Scholar
  42. Valderrama, J. C., 1981. The simultaneous analysis of total nitrogen and total phosphorus in natural waters. Marine Chemistry 10: 109–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wallenstein, M. D., D. D. Myrold, M. Firestone & M. Voytek, 2006. Environmental controls on denitrifying communities and denitrification rates: insights from molecular methods. Ecological Application 16: 2143–2152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Yoshinari, T. & R. Knowles, 1976. Acetylene inhibition of nitrous oxide reduction by denitrifying bacteria. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 69: 705–710.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Consorzio di Bonifica Acque RisorgiveFeltreItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biological Geological and Environmental Science (BiGeA)Bologna UniversityBolognaItaly

Personalised recommendations