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Nitrogen sources, transport and processing in peri-urban floodplains

Gooddy, D.C.; Macdonald, D.M.J.; Lapworth, D.J.; Bennett, S.A.; Griffiths, K.J.. 2014 Nitrogen sources, transport and processing in peri-urban floodplains. Science of The Total Environment, 494-495. 28-38. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.06.123

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Abstract/Summary

Peri-urban floodplains are an important interface between developed land and the aquatic environment and may act as a source or sink for contaminants moving from urban areas towards surface water courses. With increasing pressure from urban development the functioning of floodplains is coming under greater scrutiny. A number of peri-urban sites have been found to be populated with legacy landfills which could potentially cause pollution of adjacent river bodies. Here, a peri-urban floodplain adjoining the city of Oxford, UK, with the River Thames has been investigated over a period of three years through repeated sampling of groundwaters from existing and specially constructed piezometers. A nearby landfill has been found to have imprinted a strong signal on the groundwater with particularly high concentrations of ammonium and generally low concentrations of nitrate and dissolved oxygen. An intensive study of nitrogen dynamics through the use of N-species chemistry, nitrogen isotopes and dissolved nitrous oxide reveals that there is little or no denitrification in the majority of the main landfill plume, and neither is the ammonium significantly retarded by sorption to the aquifer sediments. A simple model has determined the flux of total nitrogen and ammonium from the landfill, through the floodplain and into the river. Over an 8 km reach of the river, which has a number of other legacy landfills, it is estimated that 27.5 tonnes of ammonium may be delivered to the river annually. Although this is a relatively small contribution to the total river nitrogen, it may represent up to 15% of the ammonium loading at the study site and over the length of the reach could increase in-stream concentrations by nearly 40%. Catchment management plans that encompass floodplains in the peri-urban environment need to take into account the likely risk to groundwater and surface water quality that these environments pose.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.06.123
ISSN: 00489697
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Nitrate pollution
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Date made live: 15 Aug 2014 11:44 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/508109

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