Assessing the source of nitrate pollution in water using stable N and O isotopesBarbara Deutscha, Petra Kahleb and Maren Vossa
a Baltic Sea Research Institute, Seestr. 15, 18119 Rostock, Germany
b University of Rostock, Institute of Land Use, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 6, 18059 Rostock, Germany
(Accepted 31 August 2006; published online 23 January 2007)
Abstract - We used the isotopic composition of nitrogen (15N) and oxygen (18O) in water nitrate (NO3-) to assess water pollution. 15N and 18O values in drainage water nitrate of a conventionally managed field and the adjacent surface waters were measured for 6 weeks during the main discharge period of the hydrological year 2003/2004. We hypothesized that this approach could provide more information about the impact of drainage water containing high nitrate loads on the following surface water bodies than common measurements of concentrations. The nitrate concentrations ranged between 686 and 2040 µM in the tile drain outlets and were positively correlated to the tile drain discharge. The low 18O-NO3- values, from 1.8 to 4.3°/°°, indicated that most of the nitrate derived from the nitrification process in the agricultural soils. The high 15N-NO3- values, from 8.5 to 15.0°/°°, reflected the long-term fertilizing practice which was carried out for several years with inorganic as well as organic fertilizers. In the adjacent ditch and the brook nitrate concentrations were lower but showed a similar development to the tile drain outlet. The 15N-NO3- values (7.2-12.1°/°°) and 18O-NO3- values (2.4-9.1°/°°) in the ditch and the brook indicated that the nitrate from tile drain discharge is the major N source for the adjacent surface water bodies.
Key words: tile drainage / nitrate / eutrophication / 15N / 18O
Corresponding author: Barbara Deutsch firstname.lastname@example.org
© INRA, EDP Sciences 2006