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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 36 No. 3, p. 628-637
    Received: May 10, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): griffits@onid.orst.edu
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Mitigation of Shallow Groundwater Nitrate in a Poorly Drained Riparian Area and Adjacent Cropland

  1. Jennifer H. Davisa,
  2. Stephen M. Griffith *a,
  3. William R. Horwathb,
  4. Jeffrey J. Steinera and
  5. David D. Myroldc
  1. a USDA-ARS, 3450 SW Campus Way, Corvallis, OR 97331
    b Dep. LAWR, Univ. of California, Davis, CA 95616
    c Dep. of Crop and Soil Science, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis, OR 97331


Riparian ecosystems, through their unique position in the agricultural landscape and ability to influence nutrient cycles, can potentially reduce NO3 loading to surface and ground waters. The purpose of this study was to determine the fate of NO3 in shallow groundwater moving along a lateral flowpath from a grass seed cropping system through an undisturbed mixed-species herbaceous riparian area. Soil A (30–45 cm) and C horizon (135–150 cm) NO3, dissolved oxygen, and nitrous oxide concentrations were significantly higher in the cropping system than the adjacent riparian area. Nitrate concentrations in both horizons of the riparian soil were consistently at or below 0.05 mg N L−1 while cropping system concentrations ranged from 1 to 12 mg N L−1 Chloride data suggested that NO3 dilution occurred from recharge by precipitation. However, a sharp decrease in NO3/Cl ratios as water moved into the riparian area indicated that additional dilution of NO3 concentrations was unlikely. Riparian area A horizon soil water had higher dissolved organic carbon than the cropping system and when the riparian soil became saturated, available electron acceptors (O2, NO3) were rapidly reduced. Dissolved inorganic carbon was significantly higher in the riparian area than the cropping system for both horizons indicating high biological activity. Carbon limitation in the cropping system may have led to microbial respiration using primarily O2 and to a lesser degree NO3 Within 6 m of the riparian/cropping system transition, NO3 was virtually undetectable.

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