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Tracing Nitrate-Nitrogen Sources and Modifications in a Stream Impacted by Various Land Uses, South Portugal

Faculty of Geo-Information and Observation Science, University of Twente, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands
Department of Oceanography and Center for Climate and Resilience Research, Universidad de Concepción, Casilla 160-C Concepción, Chile
Department of Ecosystem Studies, Netherlands Institute of Sea Research, Postbus 140, 4400 AC Yerseke, The Netherlands
Centro Operayivo e de Tecnologia de Regadio, COTR, Beja, Portugal
Escola Agraria do Beja, Portugal
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: David K. Kreamer and Y. Jun Xu
Water 2016, 8(9), 385;
Received: 18 January 2016 / Revised: 2 August 2016 / Accepted: 29 August 2016 / Published: 6 September 2016
The identification of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3–N) origin is important in the control of surface and ground water quality. These are the main sources of available drinking water. Stable isotopes (15N and 18O) for NO3–N and along with a 1-D reactive transport model were used to study the origin and processes that lead to nitrogen transformation and loss in a major stream that flows into a reservoir within an intensively cultivated catchment area (352 km2) in Alentejo-Portugal. Seasonal water samples (October–November 2008, March 2009 and September 2009) of stream surface water, wells and sediment pore water were collected. The results showed consistently increasing isotope values and decreasing NO3–N concentrations downstream. During winter (wet period, November 2008 and March 2009) slightly higher NO3–N concentrations were found in comparison to early fall (dry period: October 2008) and summer (dry period: September 2009). Isotopic composition of 15N and 18O values in surface water samples from the stream and wells indicated that the dominant NO3–N sources were derived mainly from the soil and fertilizers. There was also significant nitrification in surface water at the head of the stream. Sediment pore waters showed high NO3–N values near the sediment-water interface (reaching 25 mg·N·L−1) and NO3–N concentrations sharply decreasing with sediment depth, suggesting significant NO3–N consumption. Denitrification was also detected using the 15N signature in upstream waters, but not downstream where very low NO3–N levels were measured. In the stream, the calculated isotopic enrichment factor for NO3–N was −2.9‰ for 15N and −1.78 for 18O, this indicates that denitrification accounts for 7.8% to 48% of nitrate removal. View Full-Text
Keywords: nitrate-nitrogen; stable isotopes; streams; reactive transport model nitrate-nitrogen; stable isotopes; streams; reactive transport model
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Yevenes, M.A.; Soetaert, K.; Mannaerts, C.M. Tracing Nitrate-Nitrogen Sources and Modifications in a Stream Impacted by Various Land Uses, South Portugal. Water 2016, 8, 385.

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