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Isotopologue Ratios of N2O and N2 Measurements Underpin the Importance of Denitrification in Differently N-Loaded Riparian Alder Forests

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Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, 51014 Tartu, Estonia
Hydrosystems and Bioprocesses Research Unit, National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture (Irstea), 1 rue Pierre-Gilles de Gennes CS 10030, F92761 Antony cedex, France
§ Thünen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture, 38116 Braunschweig, Germany
Forschungszentrum Jülich, Agrosphere Institute IBG-3, Wilhelm-Johnen-Straße, 52428 Jülich, Germany
Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, 51005 Tartu, Estonia
# Institute of Landscape Matter Dynamics, Leibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape and Land Use Research (ZALF), D-15374 Müncheberg, Germany
Cite this: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, 48, 20, 11910–11918
Publication Date (Web):September 29, 2014
Copyright © 2014 American Chemical Society

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    Abstract Image

    Known as biogeochemical hotspots in landscapes, riparian buffer zones exhibit considerable potential concerning mitigation of groundwater contaminants such as nitrate, but may in return enhance the risk for indirect N2O emission. Here we aim to assess and to compare two riparian gray alder forests in terms of gaseous N2O and N2 fluxes and dissolved N2O, N2, and NO3 in the near-surface groundwater. We further determine for the first time isotopologue ratios of N2O dissolved in the riparian groundwater in order to support our assumption that it mainly originated from denitrification. The study sites, both situated in Estonia, northeastern Europe, receive contrasting N loads from adjacent uphill arable land. Whereas N2O emissions were rather small at both sites, average gaseous N2-to-N2O ratios inferred from closed-chamber measurements and He–O laboratory incubations were almost four times smaller for the heavily loaded site. In contrast, groundwater parameters were less variable among sites and between landscape positions. Campaign-based average 15N site preferences of N2O (SP) in riparian groundwater ranged between 11 and 44 ‰. Besides the strong prevalence of N2 emission over N2O fluxes and the correlation pattern between isotopologue and water quality data, this comparatively large range highlights the importance of denitrification and N2O reduction in both riparian gray alder stands.

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    Table S1a,b has original N2O and N2 emission data, whereas Table 2a,b presents isotopologue and water quality data. Figures S1 and S2 visualize the text info. This material is available free of charge via the Internet at

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