Deep denitrification : Stream and groundwater biogeochemistry reveal contrasted but connected worlds above and below

Severe, Emilee and Errigo, Isabella M and Proteau, Mary and Sayedi, Sayedeh Sara and Kolbe, Tamara and Marçais, Jean and Thomas, Zahra and Petton, Christophe and Rouault, François and Vautier, Camille and de Dreuzy, Jean-Raynald and Moatar, Florentina and Aquilina, Luc and Wood, Rachel L and LaBasque, Thierry and Lécuyer, Christophe and Pinay, Gilles and Abbott, Benjamin W (2023) Deep denitrification : Stream and groundwater biogeochemistry reveal contrasted but connected worlds above and below. Science of the Total Environment, 880: 163178. ISSN 0048-9697

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Excess nutrients from agricultural and urban development have created a cascade of ecological crises around the globe. Nutrient pollution has triggered eutrophication in most freshwater and coastal ecosystems, contributing to a loss in biodiversity, harm to human health, and trillions in economic damage every year. Much of the research conducted on nutrient transport and retention has focused on surface environments, which are both easy to access and biologically active. However, surface characteristics of watersheds, such as land use and network configuration, often do not explain the variation in nutrient retention observed in rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Recent research suggests subsurface processes and characteristics may be more important than previously thought in determining watershed-level nutrient fluxes and removal. In a small watershed in western France, we used a multi-tracer approach to compare surface and subsurface nitrate dynamics at commensurate spatiotemporal scales. We combined 3-D hydrological modeling with a rich biogeochemical dataset from 20 wells and 15 stream locations. Water chemistry in the surface and subsurface showed high temporal variability, but groundwater was substantially more spatially variable, attributable to long transport times (10-60 years) and patchy distribution of the iron and sulfur electron donors fueling autotrophic denitrification. Isotopes of nitrate and sulfate revealed fundamentally different processes dominating the surface (heterotrophic denitrification and sulfate reduction) and subsurface (autotrophic denitrification and sulfate production). Agricultural land use was associated with elevated nitrate in surface water, but subsurface nitrate concentration was decoupled from land use. Dissolved silica and sulfate are affordable tracers of residence time and nitrogen removal that are relatively stable in surface and subsurface environments. Together, these findings reveal distinct but adjacent and connected biogeochemical worlds in the surface and subsurface. Characterizing how these worlds are linked and decoupled is critical to meeting water quality targets and addressing water issues in the Anthropocene.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Science of the Total Environment
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? silicawellssurface watergroundwaterresidence timedenitrificationnitrogennitrate removalsulfurcarbonenvironmental tracersenvironmental chemistrypollutionenvironmental engineeringwaste management and disposal ??
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Deposited On:
16 May 2023 08:40
Last Modified:
27 Jun 2024 00:50