Variation in nitrogen isotopic composition in the Selenga river watershed, Mongolia
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The stable nitrogen (N) isotope ratio (δ15N) has been used to examine the anthropogenic N input (i.e., septic water, wastewater, and manure) to aquatic ecosystems, because anthropogenic N generally has a δ15N signature distinct from that found in nature. Aquatic organisms and the derived organic matter such as sediments are reported to become increasingly enriched in 15N as the human population density increases in watersheds. However, little is known about the relationship in steppe ecosystems, where the livestock population is greater than that of humans. Here, we conducted a preliminary study in the Selenga river mainstream watershed in Mongolia, which covers an area of approximately 300,000 km2. A multiple regression analysis revealed that the δ15N of the riverine sediment was significantly affected by the human population density and more significantly by livestock population density. The population density, including both humans and livestock, significantly influenced δ15N of the macrophytic Potamogeton spp. The results showed that δ15N of riverine organic matter can be an indicator of the human and livestock population density, which is likely associated with the status of N cycles in livestock-dominated watersheds.
KeywordsStable N isotope ratio Livestock Population Watershed Mongolia
We appreciate the helpful comments on the earlier draft of this manuscript afforded by the two anonymous reviewers. This study was supported by the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (P3-1 and D-04), by a grant-in-aid from JSPS to N.F., and partly by a Special Coordination Fund for Promoting Sciences and Technology from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture.
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