Using 15N to determine a budget for effluent-derived ...

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Title Using 15N to determine a budget for effluent-derived nitrogen applied to forest
Author(s) W. Tozer, K. J. Wilkins, H. Wang, Michael R. van den Heuvel, T. Charleson, W. B. Silvester
Journal Isotopes In Environmental And Health Studies
Date 2005
Volume 41
Issue
Start page 13
End page 30
Abstract Using stable N isotopes, the fate of effluent-derived N has been determined within a land based municipal effluent irrigation scheme. Over 900 metric tonnes(t) of effluent-derived N have been applied to 192 ha of production conifer forest near Rotorua (NZ) over the past 11 years. The effluent N has a natural isotopic signal, generated by the treatment process, allowing it to be traced into various components of the system. Using this isotopic signal, a realistic approximation of storage capacity of various components of the system has been generated, including a calculation of the contribution of effluent N exiting the catchment via stream flow. Forest storage accounts for 50% of the applied N with a considerable proportion of that immobilized in wood and soil. The wetland, although not intensively sampled, retains 115 t, (13%) of the applied N. Denitrification, including that occurring within the wetland, accounts for 23 t (3%). Nitrogen isotope data confirm that the rise in NO3 concentrations is directly attributable to effluent N. Currently 88% of NO3-N in the stream is effluent-derived. Using current N isotope values for the stream and extrapolating over the discharge period, export of effluent N via the stream is estimated as 263 t (29%) of the applied N. Overall the forest and wetland ecosystem has intercepted or denitrified 65% of applied N, with 29% lost to the stream, and 50 t (5%) unaccounted for. The forest ecosystem is currently over-supplied with N and a number of management implications flows from these findings. In the long term the continued application of effluent N to the current irrigation area is not sustainable.
PubMed ID 15823854

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