Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 67, Issue 8, pp 2383–2398 | Cite as

Nitrate source and fate at the catchment scale of the Vibrata River and aquifer (central Italy): an analysis by integrating component approaches and nitrogen isotopes

  • Tiziana Di Lorenzo
  • Mauro Brilli
  • Dina Del Tosto
  • Diana M. P. Galassi
  • Marco PetittaEmail author
Original Article


The aim of this study is to apply an integrated approach to determine nitrate sources and fate in the alluvial aquifer of the River Vibrata (Abruzzi, central Italy) by coupling the Isotope and the Component approaches. Collected data include concentration and nitrogen isotope composition of groundwater samples from the alluvial aquifer and nitrogen loads arising from agricultural and non-agricultural sources. The adopted methodology identified synthetic fertilizers as main sources of nitrate in the Vibrata alluvial aquifer. At the catchment scale, two different zones have been identified: the Upper Valley, where infiltration to groundwater is dominant and nitrogen easily migrates into the aquifer; in this area, nitrate content in groundwater is stable and normally higher than EU requirements. Moreover, streamwaters are fed by groundwater with a nitrate content likely lowered by denitrification processes occurring in the hyporheic zone. In the Lower Valley, runoff processes dominate and the nitrate content in surface waters is higher. Nevertheless, groundwater is locally affected by denitrification that breaks down the nitrate content, which often reaches values consistent with law limits.


Pollution Alluvial aquifer Nitrogen loads Isotopes European policy 



This research was granted by Regione Abruzzo, Servizio Acque e Demanio Idrico (L’Aquila, Italy). We are much indebted to P. Caputi, B. Fabiocchi, ARTA Abruzzo and especially to S. Di Giuseppe (Regione Abruzzo, L’Aquila) for providing facilities for the fieldwork, hydrogeological maps and supporting information data. The Istituto Zooprofilattico Caporale (Teramo, Italy) is greatly acknowledged for granting permission to use unpublished information of land use in the Vibrata Plain.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tiziana Di Lorenzo
    • 1
  • Mauro Brilli
    • 2
  • Dina Del Tosto
    • 3
  • Diana M. P. Galassi
    • 3
  • Marco Petitta
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Istituto per lo Studio degli Ecosistemi, CNRSesto FiorentinoItaly
  2. 2.Istituto di Geologia Ambientale e Geoingegneria, CNRRomeItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze AmbientaliUniversity of L’AquilaL’AquilaItaly
  4. 4.Dipartimento di Scienze della TerraUniversità di Roma “La Sapienza”RomeItaly

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