Yield of nitrogen from minimally disturbed watersheds of the United States
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Watersheds of the US Geological Survey's Hydrologic Benchmark Network program were used in estimating annual yield of total nitrogen and nitrogen fractions (ammonium, nitrate, dissolved organic N, particulate N) in relation to amount of runoff, elevation, and watershed area. Only watersheds minimally disturbed with respect to the nitrogen cycle were used in the analysis (mostly natural vegetation cover, no point sources of N, atmospheric deposition of inorganic N < 10 kg ha−1 y−1). Statistical analysis of the yields of total nitrogen and nitrogen fractions showed that elevation and watershed area bear no significant relationship to nitrogen yield for these watersheds. The yields of total nitrogen and nitrogen fractions are, however, strongly related to runoff (r2 = 0.91 for total N). Annual yield increases as runoff increases, but at a rate lower than runoff; annual discharge-weighted mean concentrations decline as annual runoff increases. Yields of total nitrogen and most nitrogen fractions bear a relationship to runoff that is nearly indistinguishable from a relationship that was documented previously for minimally disturbed watersheds of the American tropics. Overall, the results suggest strong interlatitudinal convergence of yields and percent fractionation for nitrogen in relation to runoff.
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