Nitrogen transformations in wetlands: Effects of water flow patterns
Sammanfattning: In this thesis, I have studied nitrogen turnover processes in watermeadows. A watermeadow is a wetland where water infiltrates through the soil of a grassland field. It is hypothesized that infiltration of water through the soil matrix promotes nutrient transformations compared to surface flow of water, by increasing the contact between water, nutrients, soil organic matter and bacteria. I have studied how the balance between nitrogen removal (denitrification, assimilative uptake, adsorption) and release (mineralization, desorption) processes are affected by water flow characteristics. Mass balance studies and direct denitrification measurements at two field sites showed that, although denitrification was high, net nitrogen removal in the watermeadows was poor. This was due to release of ammonium and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) from the soils. In laboratory studies, using 15N isotope techniques, I have shown that nitrogen turnover is considerably affected by hydrological conditions and by soil type. Infiltration increased virtually all the nitrogen processes, due to deeper penetration of nitrate and oxygen, and extended zones of turnover processes. On the contrary, soils and sediments with surface waterflow, diffusion is the main transfer mechanism. The relation between release and removal processes sometimes resulted in shifts towards net nitrogen production. This occurred in infiltration treatments when ammonium efflux was high in relation to denitrification. It was concluded that ammonium and DON was of soil origin and hence not a product of dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium. Both denitrification potential and mineralization rates were higher in peaty than in sandy soil. Vertical or horizontal subsurface flow is substantial in many wetland types, such as riparian zones, tidal salt marshes, fens, root-zone systems and watermeadows. Moreover, any environment where aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems meet, and where water level fluctuates, will possess some of the nutrient transformation features investigated in this thesis.
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