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Arizona State University (ASU) 2019

Watershed Nitrogen Transport, Retention, and Fate in Dryland and Urban Ecosystems

Handler, Amalia

Titre : Watershed Nitrogen Transport, Retention, and Fate in Dryland and Urban Ecosystems

Auteur : Handler, Amalia

Université de soutenance : Arizona State University (ASU)

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2019

Nitrogen is an essential, often limiting, element for biological growth that can act as a pollutant if present in excess. Nitrogen is primarily transported by water from uplands to streams and eventually to recipient lakes, estuaries, and wetlands, but can be modulated by biological uptake and transformation along these flowpaths. As a result, nitrogen can accumulate in aquatic ecosystems if supply is high or if biological retention is low. Dryland and urban ecosystems offer interesting contrasts in water supply, which limits transport and biological activity in drylands, and nitrogen supply that increases with human activity. In my dissertation, I ask : What is the relative balance among nitrogen retention, removal, and transport processes in dryland watersheds, and what is the fate of exported nitrogen ? My dissertation research demonstrates that water is a major control on where and when nitrogen is retained and removed versus exported to downstream ecosystems. I used a mass-balance model based on synoptic surveys to study seasonal and spatial patterns in nitrate loading to a dryland stream network. I found that irrigation diversions transport nitrate from agricultural areas to the stream network year-round, even during dry seasons, and are an important driver of nitrate loading. I further explored how seasonal precipitation influences flood nutrient export in an intermittent desert stream by coupling long-term data of flood-water chemistry with stream discharge and precipitation data. I found that higher precipitation prior to a flood fills water storage sites in the catchment, leading to larger floods. In addition, higher antecedent precipitation stimulates biological nitrogen retention in the uplands, leading to lower nitrogen concentration in floods. Finally, I evaluated the consequences of nitrogen export from watersheds on how urban wetlands attenuate nitrate through denitrification that permanently removes nitrogen, and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) that retains nitrogen in another biologically reactive form. I found that DNRA becomes proportionally more important with low nitrate concentration, thereby retaining nitrogen as ammonium. Collectively, my dissertation research addresses how dryland and urban ecosystems can be integrated into models of watershed nitrogen cycling

Sujets : Ecology / Environmental science / Drylands / Nitrogen cycling / Streams / Temporary streams / Watersheds / Wetlands


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