Mineral N stock and nitrate accumulation in the 50 to 200 m profile on the Loess Plateau

Jia, Xiaoxu and Zhu, Yuanjun and Huang, Laiming and Wei, Xiaorong and Fang, Yunting and Wu, Lianhai and Binley, Andrew and Shao, Mingan (2018) Mineral N stock and nitrate accumulation in the 50 to 200 m profile on the Loess Plateau. Science of the Total Environment, 633. pp. 999-1006. ISSN 0048-9697

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Nitrogen (N) stored in deep profiles is important in assessing regional and/or global N stocks and nitrate leaching risk to groundwater. The Chinese Loess Plateau, which is characterized by significantly thick loess deposits, potentially stores immense stocks of mineral N, posing future threats to groundwater quality. In order to determine the vertical distributions of nitrate and ammonium content in the region, as well as to characterize the potential accumulation of nitrate in the deep loess profile, we study loess samples collected at five sites (Yangling, Changwu, Fuxian, An'sai and Shenmu) through a 50 to 200 m loess profile. The estimated storage of mineral N varied significantly among the five sites, ranging from 0.46 to 2.43 × 104 kg N ha−1. Ammonium exhibited fluctuations and dominated mineral N stocks within the whole profile at the sites, except for the upper 20–30 m at Yangling and Changwu. Measured nitrate content in the entire profile at Fuxian, An'sai and Shenmu is low, but significant accumulations were observed to 30–50 m depth at the other two sites. Analysis of δ15N and δ18O of nitrate indicates different causes for accumulated nitrate at these two sites. Mineralization and nitrification of manure and organic N respectively contribute nitrate to the 0–12 and 12–30 m profile at Changwu; while nitrification of NH4+ fertilizer, NO3− fertilizer and nitrification of organic N control the nitrate distribution in the 0–3, 3–7 and 7–10 m layer at Yangling, respectively. Furthermore, our analysis illustrates the low denitrification potential in the lower part of the vadose zone. The accumulated nitrate introduced by human activities is thus mainly distributed in the upper vadose zone (above 30 m), indicating, currently, a low nitrate leaching risk to groundwater due to a high storage capacity of the thick vadose zone in the region.

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Journal Article
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Science of the Total Environment
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This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Science of the Total Environment. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Science of the Total Environment, 633, 2018 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.03.249
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29 Mar 2018 13:42
Last Modified:
28 Nov 2020 05:19