Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Research Publications: UM-SG-RS-2011-02

Title: 

Denitrification in Alluvial Wetlands in an Urban Landscape.

Year: 

2011

Authors: 

Harrison, MD; Groffman, PM; Mayer, PM; Kaushal, SS; Newcomer, TA

Source: 

Journal of Environmental Quality 40(2):634-646

DOI: 

10.2134/jeq2010.0335

Abstract: 

Riparian wetlands have been shown to be effective "sinks" for nitrate N (NO(3)(-)), minimizing the downstream export of N to streams and coastal water bodies. However, the vast majority of riparian denitrification research has been in agricultural and forested watersheds, with relatively little work on riparian wetland function in urban watersheds. We investigated the variation and magnitude of denitrification in three constructed and two relict oxbow urban wetlands, and in two forested reference wetlands in the Baltimore metropolitan area. Denitrification rates in wetland sediments were measured with a 15N-enriched NO(3)(-) "push-pull" groundwater tracer method during the summer and winter of 2008. Mean denitrification rates did not differ among the wetland types and ranged from 147 +/- 29 mu g N kg soil-1 d-1 in constructed stormwater wetlands to 100 +/- 11 mu g N kg soil-1 d-1 in relict oxbows to 106 +/- 32 mu g N kg soil-1 d-1 in forested reference wetlands. High denitrification rates were observed in both summer and winter, suggesting that these wetlands are sinks for NO(3)(-) year round. Comparison of denitrification rates with NO(3)(-) standing stocks in the wetland water column and stream NO(3)(-) loads indicated that mass removal of NO(3)(-) in urban wetland sediments by denitrification could be substantial. Our results suggest that urban wetlands have the potential to reduce NO(3)(-) in urban landscapes and should be considered as a means to manage N in urban watersheds.

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