After the storm: fate and leaching of particulate nitrogen (PN) in the fluvial network and the influence of watershed sources and moisture conditions

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Krieg, C., E. Johnson, E. Peck, J. Kan, and S. Inamdar. 2021. Water 13(22), 3182. (Registering DOI; temporary link)

Open access


Large storms can erode, transport, and deposit substantial amounts of particulate nitrogen (PN) in the fluvial network. The fate of this input and its consequence for water quality is poorly understood. This study investigated the transformation and leaching of PN using a 56-day incubation experiment with five PN sources: forest floor humus, upland mineral A horizon, stream bank, storm deposits, and stream bed. Experiments were subjected to two moisture regimes: continuously moist and dry–wet cycles. Sediment and porewater samples were collected through the incubation and analyzed for N and C species, as well as the quantification of nitrifying and denitrifying genes (amoA, nirS, nirK). C- and N-rich watershed sources experienced decomposition, mineralization, and nitrification and released large amounts of dissolved N, but the amount of N released varied depending on the PN source and moisture regime. Drying and rewetting stimulated nitrification and suppressed denitrification in most PN sources. Storm deposits released large amounts of porewater N regardless of the moisture conditions, indicating that they could readily act as N sources under a variety of conditions. The inputs, processing, and leaching of large, storm-driven PN inputs become increasingly important as the frequency and intensity of large storms is predicted to increase with global climate change.