Variability of DOC and nitrate responses to storms in a small Mediterranean forested catchment

Bernal, S., A. Butturini, and F. Sabater (2002), Variability of DOC and
nitrate responses to storms in a small Mediterranean forested catchment,
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 6, 1031– 1041.

Severe drought periods followed by intense rainfall often leads to major floods in Mediterranean catchments. The resulting hydrology is complex and the response of solutes in the streams is often unpredictable. This study aimed to identify the most relevant factors controlling the hydrological responses to storms of an intermittent Mediterranean stream and to link those factors with dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrate during storm events. Measurements of climate, hydrology, DOC and nitrate concentrations during 26 storm events over three hydrological years were analysed. The contribution of the storm events to the total DOC and nitrate annual export was also calculated. Nitrate was mainly mobilised during high flow, while most of the DOC export occurred during baseflow. Solute concentrations peaked after drought periods and the solute export was maximal during the largest rainfalls (i.e.>100 L m-2). One single large storm contributed some 22% of the total annual export of DOC, and about 80% of that of nitrate. Discharge was a good predictor of neither DOC nor nitrate responses, so variables other than discharge were considered. Factor Analysis was used to identify the main factors controlling the biogeochemical responses. Antecedent moisture conditions and the magnitude of the storm event were the most relevant factors and accounted for 63% of the total variance. Solute responses during high flow were highly variable. However, solute concentration changes showed a significant and moderate relationship with the factors controlling the hydrological responses (i.e. Δ DOC v. the antecedent moisture conditions and Δ NO3-N v. the magnitude of the storm event).

Hydrologic flowpaths influence inorganic and organic nutrient leaching in a forest soil

Asano, Y., Compton, J. E. & Church, R. M. Hydrologic flowpaths influence
inorganic and organic nutrient leaching in a forest soil. Biogeochem. 81,
191-204 (2006).

Hydrologic pathways through soil affect element leaching by determining the relative importance of biogeochemical processes such as sorption and decomposition. We used stable hydrogen isotopes of water (dD) to examine the influence of flowpaths on soil solution chemistry in a mature spruce–hemlock forest in coastal Oregon, USA. Soil solutions (50 cm depth, n = 13) were collected monthly for 1 year and analyzed for dD, major ions and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen (DON). We propose that the variability of dD can be used as an index of flowpath length and contact time. Throughfall variability in dD was much greater than soil solution variability, illustrating that soil solution integrates the variation in inputs. Lysimeters with greater variation in dD presumably have a greater proportion of flow through rapid flowpaths such as macropores. The variation in soil solution dD for individual lysimeters explained up to 53% of the variation in soil solution chemistry, and suggests that flowpaths influence leaching of some constituents. Soil solutions from lysimeters with greater dD variation had higher DOC and DON (r2 = 0.51 and 0.37, respectively), perhaps because transport via macropores reduces interaction of DOM with the soil matrix. In contrast, nitrate concentrations were highest in lysimeters with a small variation in dD, where long contact time and low DOC concentrations may yield higher net nitrification. Our results demonstrate the utility of stable isotopes to link flowpaths and soil solution chemistry, and illustrate how the spatial complexity of soils can influence ecosystem- level nutrient losses.

Distribution of Nitrous Oxide and Regulators of Its Production across a Tropical Rainforest Catena in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico

MCSWINEY, CLAIRE P.; MCDOWELL, WILLIAM H.; KELLER, MICHAEL 2001. Distribution of nitrous oxide and regulators of its production across a tropical rainforest catena in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. Biogeochemistry 56: 265-286.

Understanding of N2O fluxes to the atmosphere is complicated by interactions between chemical and physical controls on both production and movement of the gas. To better understand how N2O production is controlled in the soil, we measured concentrations of N2O and of the proximal controllers on its production in soil water and soil air in a field study in the Rio Icacos basin of the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. A toposequence (ridge, slope-ridge break, slope, slope-riparian break, riparian, and streambank) was used that has been previously characterized for groundwater chemistry and surface N2O fluxes. The proximal controls on N2O production include NO−3 , NH+4 , DOC, and O2. Nitrous oxide and O2 were measured in soil air and NO−3 , NH+4 , and DO were measured in soil water. Nitrate and DOC disappeared from soil solution at the slope-riparian interface, where soil N2O concentrations increased dramatically. Soil N2O concentrations continued to increase through the flood plain and the streambank. Nitrous oxide concentrations were highest in soil air probes that had intermediate O2 concentrations. Changes in N2O concentrations in groundwater and soil air in different environments along the catena appear to be controlled by O2 concentrations. In general, N processing in the unsaturated and saturated zones differs within each topographic position apparently due to differences in redox status.

Control of Nitrogen Export from Watersheds by Headwater Streams

Peterson, B.J. et al. 2001. Control of Nitrogen Export from Watersheds by Headwater Streams.
Science 6 April 2001:
Vol. 292 no. 5514 pp. 86-90
DOI: 10.1126/science.1056874

A comparative 15N-tracer study of nitrogen dynamics in headwater streams from biomes throughout North America demonstrates that streams exert control over nutrient exports to rivers, lakes, and estuaries. The most rapid uptake and transformation of inorganic nitrogen occurred in the smallest streams. Ammonium entering these streams was removed from the water within a few tens to hundreds of meters. Nitrate was also removed from stream water but traveled a distance 5 to 10 times as long, on average, as ammonium. Despite low ammonium concentration in stream water, nitrification rates were high, indicating that small streams are potentially important sources of atmospheric nitrous oxide. During seasons of high biological activity, the reaches of headwater streams typically export downstream less than half of the input of dissolved inorganic nitrogen from their watersheds.

Riparian Nitrogen Dynamics in Two Geomorphologically Distinct Tropical Rain Forest Watersheds: Subsurface Solute Patterns

Riparian Nitrogen Dynamics in Two Geomorphologically Distinct Tropical Rain Forest Watersheds: Subsurface Solute Patterns
William H. McDowell, William B. Bowden and Clyde E. Asbury
Vol. 18, No. 2 (1992), pp. 53-75

Nitrate, ammonium, dissolved organic N, and dissolved oxygen were measured in stream water and shallow groundwater in the riparian ones of two tropical watersheds with different soils and geomorphology. At both sites, concentrations of dissolved inorganic N (DIN: NH-4+ and NO-3-N) were low in stream water lt 110 mu-g/L). Markedly different patterns in DIN were observed in groundwater collected at the two sites. At the first site (Icacos watershed), DIN in upslope groundwater was dominated by NO-3-N (550 mu-g/L) and oxygen concentrations were high (5.2 mg/l). As groundwater moved through the floodplain and to the stream, DIN shifted to dominance by NH-4+-N (200-700 mu-g/L) and groundwater was often anoxic. At the second site (Bisley watershed), average concentrations of total dissolved nitrogen were considerably lower (300 mu-g/L) than at Icacos (600 mu-g/L), and the dominant form of nitrogen was DON rather than inorganic N. Concentrations of NH-4+ and NO-3- were similar throughout the riparian zone at Bisley, but concentrations of DON declined from upslope wells to stream water. Differences in speciation and concentration of nitrogen in groundwater collected at the two sites appears to be controlled by differences in redox conditions and accessibility of dissolved N to plant roots, which are themselves the result of geomorphological differences between the two watersheds. At the Icacos site, a deep layer of coarse sand conducts subsurface water to the stream below the rooting zone of riparian vegetation and through zones of strong horizontal redox zonation. At the Bisley site, infiltration is impeded by dense clays and saturated flow passes though the variably oxidized rooting zone. At both sites, hydrologic export of nitrogen is controlled by intense biotic activity in the riparian zones. However, geomorphology appears to strongly modify the importance of specific biotic components.
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