Nitrate removal in stream ecosystems measured by 15N addition experiments: Total uptake

Robert O. Hall, Jennifer L. Tank, Daniel J. Sobota, Patrick J. Mulholland, Jonathan M. O'Brien, Walter K. Dodds, Jackson R. Webster, H. Maurice Valett, Geoffrey C. Poole, Bruce J. Peterson, Judy L. Meyer, William H. McDowell, Sherri L. Johnson, Stephen K. Hamilton, Nancy B. Grimm, Stanley V. Gregory, Clifford N. Dahm, Lee W. Cooper, Linda R. Ashkenas, Suzanne M. ThomasRichard W. Sheibley, Jody D. Potter, B. R. Niederlehner, Laura T. Johnson, Ashley M. Helton, Chelsea M. Crenshaw, Amy J. Burgin, Melody J. Bernot, Jake J. Beaulieu, Clay P. Arangob

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


We measured uptake length of 15NO-3 in 72 streams in eight regions across the United States and Puerto Rico to develop quantitative predictive models on controls of NO-3 uptake length. As part of the Lotic Intersite Nitrogen eXperiment II project, we chose nine streams in each region corresponding to natural (reference), suburban-urban, and agricultural land uses. Study streams spanned a range of human land use to maximize variation in NO-3 concentration, geomorphology, and metabolism. We tested a causal model predicting controls on NO-3 uptake length using structural equation modeling. The model included concomitant measurements of ecosystem metabolism, hydraulic parameters, and nitrogen concentration. We compared this structural equation model to multiple regression models which included additional biotic, catchment, and riparian variables. The structural equation model explained 79% of the variation in log uptake length (S Wtot). Uptake length increased with specific discharge (Q/w) and increasing NO-3 concentrations, showing a loss in removal efficiency in streams with high NO-3 concentration. Uptake lengths shortened with increasing gross primary production, suggesting autotrophic assimilation dominated NO-3 removal. The fraction of catchment area as agriculture and suburban-urban land use weakly predicted NO-3 uptake in bivariate regression, and did improve prediction in a set of multiple regression models. Adding land use to the structural equation model showed that land use indirectly affected NO-3 uptake lengths via directly increasing both gross primary production and NO-3 concentration. Gross primary production shortened SWtot, while increasing NO-3 lengthened SWtot resulting in no net effect of land use on NO- 3 removal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-665
Number of pages13
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009


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