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Open AccessArticle

Regional Variability of Agriculturally-Derived Nitrate-Nitrogen in Shallow Groundwater in China, 2004–2014

Linze Inland River Basin Research Station, Chinese Ecosystem Research Network, Key Laboratory of Eco-hydrology of Inland River Basin, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1393;
Received: 10 March 2018 / Revised: 20 April 2018 / Accepted: 25 April 2018 / Published: 2 May 2018
Increasing diffuse nitrate loading of groundwater has long been a major environmental and health concern in China, but little is known about the spatial and temporal variability of nitrate concentrations in groundwater at regional scales. The aim of this study was to assess the spatial distribution and variation of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) concentrations in groundwater. We used groundwater quality monitoring data and soil physical characteristics from 21 agro-ecosystems in China for years 2004 to 2014. The results indicated that NO3-N concentrations were highly variable in shallow groundwater across the landscape. Over the study period, most of the NO3-N concentrations were below the World Health Organization permissible limit for drinking water (<10 mg N·L). NO3-N concentrations in groundwater neither significantly increased nor decreased in most agro-ecosystems, but fluctuated with seasons. In addition, groundwater NO3-N under purple soil (6.81 mg·L−1) and Aeolian sandy soil (6.02 mg·L−1) were significantly higher (p < 0.05) than that under other soil types, and it was medium-high (4.49 mg·L−1) under aquic cinnamon soil. Elevated nitrate concentrations occurred mainly in oasis agricultural areas of northwestern China, where farmlands with coarse-textured soils use flood irrigation. Therefore, arid and semi-arid areas are expected to sustain high NO3-N concentrations in groundwater. Mitigation strategies can prevent this problem, and include control of N fertilizer input, balanced fertilization, proper rotation system, adoption of improved irrigation methods, and establishment of environmental policies. View Full-Text
Keywords: shallow groundwater; agro-ecosystems; NO3-N concentration; China shallow groundwater; agro-ecosystems; NO3-N concentration; China
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MDPI and ACS Style

Li, J.; He, Z.; Du, J.; Zhao, L.; Chen, L.; Zhu, X.; Lin, P.; Fang, S.; Zhao, M.; Tian, Q. Regional Variability of Agriculturally-Derived Nitrate-Nitrogen in Shallow Groundwater in China, 2004–2014. Sustainability 2018, 10, 1393.

AMA Style

Li J, He Z, Du J, Zhao L, Chen L, Zhu X, Lin P, Fang S, Zhao M, Tian Q. Regional Variability of Agriculturally-Derived Nitrate-Nitrogen in Shallow Groundwater in China, 2004–2014. Sustainability. 2018; 10(5):1393.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Li, Jing; He, Zhibin; Du, Jun; Zhao, Liwen; Chen, Longfei; Zhu, Xi; Lin, Pengfei; Fang, Shu; Zhao, Minmin; Tian, Quanyan. 2018. "Regional Variability of Agriculturally-Derived Nitrate-Nitrogen in Shallow Groundwater in China, 2004–2014" Sustainability 10, no. 5: 1393.

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