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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 40 No. 2, p. 505-516
    Received: July 9, 2010

    * Corresponding author(s): Steve.Griffith@ars.usda.gov
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Surface Water and Groundwater Nitrogen Dynamics in a Well Drained Riparian Forest within a Poorly Drained Agricultural Landscape

  1. Jennifer H. Davisa,
  2. Stephen M. Griffith *a and
  3. Parker J. Wigingtonb
  1. a USDA–ARS 3450 SW Campus Way Corvallis, OR 97331
    b U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 200 SW 35th St., Corvallis, OR 97331. Assigned to Associate Editor Philippe Vidon


The effectiveness of riparian zones in mitigating nutrients in ground and surface water depends on the climate, management, and hydrogeomorphology of a site. The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy of a well drained, mixed-deciduous riparian forest to buffer a river from N originating from a poorly drained grass seed cropping system. The study site was adjacent to the Calapooia River in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Water was found to move from the rapid drainage of swale surface water. During winter hydrological events, the riparian forest also received river water. Low nitrate (NO3 ) concentrations (0.2–0.4 mg NO3 –N L−1) in the shallow groundwater of the cropping system were associated with low rates of mineralization and nitrification (33 kg N ha−1 yr−1) and high grass seed crop uptake of N (155 kg N ha−1 yr−1). The riparian forest soil had higher rates of mineralization (117 kg N ha−1 yr−1) that produced quantities of soil N that were within the range of literature values for plant uptake, leading to relatively low concentrations of shallow groundwater NO3 (0.6–1.8 mg NO3 –N L−1). The swale that dissected the cropping system and riparian area was found to have the highest rates of denitrification and to contribute dissolved organic C to the river. Given the dynamic nature of the hydrology of the Calapooia River study site, data suggest that the riparian forest plays a role not only in reducing export of NO3 from the cropping system to the river but also in processing nutrients from river water.

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