Natural wetlands can play a key role in controlling non-point source pollution, but quantifying their capacity to reduce contaminant loads is often challenging due to diffuse and variable inflows. The nitrogen removal performance of a small natural headwater wetland in a pastoral agricultural catchment in Waikato, New Zealand was assessed over a two-year period (2011–2013). Flow and water quality samples were collected at the wetland upper and lower locations, and piezometers sampled inside and outside the wetland. A simple dynamic model operating on an hourly time step was used to assess wetland removal performance for key N species. Hourly measurements of inflow, outflow, rainfall and Penman-Monteith evapotranspiration estimates were used to calculate dynamic water balance for the wetland. A dynamic N mass balance was calculated for each N component by coupling influent concentrations to the dynamic water balance and applying a first order areal removal coefficient (k20
) adjusted to the ambient temperature. Flow and water quality monitoring showed that wetland was mainly groundwater fed. The concentrations of oxidised nitrogen (NOx
-N, Total Organic Nitrogen (TON) and Total-N (TN) were lower at the outlet of the wetland regardless of flow conditions or seasonality, even during winter storms. The model estimation showed that the wetland could reduce net NOx
-N, TON and TN loads by 76%, 73%, 26% and 57%, respectively.
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