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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Evaluating hillslope and riparian contributions to dissolved nitrogen (N) export from a boreal forest catchment

Blackburn, M.;Ledesma, Jose L. J.;Naesholm, Torgny;Laudon, Hjalmar;Sponseller, Ryan A.;

Abstract

Catchment science has long held that the chemistry of small streams reflects the landscapes they drain. However, understanding the contribution of different landscape units to stream chemistry remains a challenge which frequently limits our understanding of export dynamics. For limiting nutrients such as nitrogen (N), an implicit assumption is that the most spatially extensive landscape units (e.g., uplands) act as the primary sources to surface waters, while near-stream zones function more often as sinks. These assumptions, based largely on studies in high-gradient systems or in regions with elevated inputs of anthropogenic N, may not apply to low-gradient, nutrient-poor, and peat-rich catchments characteristic of many northern ecosystems. We quantified patterns of N mobilization along a hillslope transect in a northern boreal catchment to assess the extent to which organic matter-rich riparian soils regulate the flux of N to streams. Contrary to the prevailing view of riparian functioning, we found that near-stream, organic soils supported concentrations and fluxes of ammonium (NH4+) and dissolved organic nitrogen that were much higher than the contributing upslope forest soils. These results suggest that stream N chemistry is connected to N mobilization and mineralization within the riparian zone rather than the wider landscape. Results further suggest that water table fluctuation in near-surface riparian soils may promote elevated rates of net N mineralization in these landscapes.

Keywords

riparian; organic nitrogen; groundwater; ammonium; boreal; watershed

Published in

Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences

2017, volume: 122, number: 2, pages: 324-339

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Ledesma, Jose
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Sponseller, Ryan
Umeå University

UKÄ Subject classification

Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
Environmental Sciences

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/2016JG003535

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/80784