Spatial variation in concentrations of dissolved nitrogen species in an upland blanket peat catchment

Cundill, A. P.; Chapman, P. J.; Adamson, J. K.. 2007 Spatial variation in concentrations of dissolved nitrogen species in an upland blanket peat catchment. Science of the Total Environment, 373 (1). 166-177.

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The concentration of nitrogen (N), particularly as nitrate (NO3–N), in upland streams, lakes and rivers is frequently used as a diagnostic of the vulnerability of upland ecosystems to increased atmospheric nitrogen deposition and N saturation. The N content of running waters, however, is generally assessed on the basis of sampling at a limited number of points in space and time within the catchment under investigation. The current study was conducted at Trout Beck, an 11.5 km2 blanket peat-dominated catchment in the North Pennine uplands of the UK. Results from sampling at 33 sites within this catchment demonstrated that the concentrations of all dissolved N species were highly variable, even over short distances. Statistical relationships between the concentrations of NO3–N and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) and percentage catchment cover of Calluna/Eriophorum and Eriophorum vegetation were found. However, it was also noted that in catchments containing limestone outcrops, NO3–N concentration was much higher than in catchments where runoff was sourced directly from the blanket peat surface. It is possible that NH4–N and DON leached from the blanket peat are mineralised and nitrified, providing a source for the NO3–N found in the river channels. Overall, the current study suggests that interpretations of N-saturation based on river water chemistry measurements at a single point must be treated cautiously, and that the influence of catchment-scale physical factors, such as vegetation and geology cover on the concentration of dissolved N species in upland river waters should not be ignored.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biogeochemistry > CC01B Land-surface Feedbacks in the Climate System
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Parr
ISSN: ISSN: 0048-9697
Additional Keywords: N-saturation, NO3–N, DON, Spatial variation, Vegetation, Geology
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 10 Jan 2008 12:56 +0 (UTC)

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