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Isotopic evidence of nitrate sources and its transformations in a human-impacted watershed

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Abstract

The considerable spatial and temporal variabilities of nitrogen (N) processing introduce large uncertainties for quantifying N cycles on a large scale, particularly in plain river network regions with complicated hydrographic connections and mixed multiple N sources. In this paper, the dual isotopes δ15N and δ18O and dissolved anions in regularly collected samples (n = 10) from the studied river, which is one of the most seriously polluted rivers in the plain river network regions of the Taihu Lake catchment, were analyzed to ascertain the main nitrate (NO3) sources and watershed N processing in the context of monsoon climate. The seasonal variations in precipitation, temperature, and hydrology play key roles in the regulation of the river NO3 concentration, NO3 sources, and watershed N processing. Nitrification of N-containing materials in the soil was possibly the major source of NO3 all year round, especially in the rainy season, whereas manure and sewage significantly contributed to the NO3 load in the Taige River in the dry season. Nitrification and denitrification processes within the area were closely related. The significant negative relationship between the water temperature and δ18O–NO3 values indicated the occurrence of nitrification in the soil throughout the year. By contrast, seasonal variations of denitrification were apparent from May to July with the high soil temperature and moisture, thereby indicating the occurrence of denitrification (22.9%) within the watershed. After the assessment of temporal variations of NO3 sources and watershed N processing, improved environmental management practices can be implemented to protect water resources and prevent further water quality deterioration in human-impacted watersheds.

Graphical abstract: Isotopic evidence of nitrate sources and its transformations in a human-impacted watershed

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Publication details

The article was received on 12 Sep 2018, accepted on 28 Jan 2019 and first published on 29 Jan 2019


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C8EM00424B
Citation: Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2019, Advance Article

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    Isotopic evidence of nitrate sources and its transformations in a human-impacted watershed

    J. Ding, B. Xi, Q. Xu, H. Meng, Y. Shen and H. Cheng, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2019, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/C8EM00424B

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