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Spatial and temporal variations of nutrient concentration in the groundwater of a floodplain: effect of hydrology, vegetation and substrate

Takatert, Naima and Sanchez-Pérez, José-Miguel and Trémolières, Michèle Spatial and temporal variations of nutrient concentration in the groundwater of a floodplain: effect of hydrology, vegetation and substrate. (1999) Hydrological Processes, vol. 13 (n° 10). p. 1511-1526. ISSN 0885-6087

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-1085(199907)13:10<1511::AID-HYP828>3.0.CO;2-F


Spatio-temporal variations in nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in groundwater were analysed and related to the variations in hydrological conditions, vegetation type and substrate in an alluvial ecosystem. This study was conducted in the Illwald forest in the Rhine Plain (eastern France) to assess the removal of nutrients from groundwater in a regularly flooded area. We compared both forest and meadow ecosystems on clayey-silty soils with an anoxic horizon (pseudogley) at 1•5–2 m depth (eutric gley soil) and a forest ecosystem on a clayey-silty fluviosoil rich in organic matter with a gley at 0•5 m depth (calcaric gley soil). Piezometers were used to measure the nutrient concentrations in the groundwater at 2 m depth in the root layer and at 4•5 m depth, below the root layer. Lower concentrations of nitrate and phosphate in groundwater were observed under forest than under meadow, which could be explained by more efficient plant uptake by woody species than herbaceous plants. Thus NO3-N inputs by river floods were reduced by 73% in the shallow groundwater of the forested ecosystem, and only by 37% in the meadow. Compared with the superficial groundwater layer, the lowest level of nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N) and the highest level of ammonium nitrogen (NH4-N) were measured in the deep layer (under the gley horizon at 2•5 m depth), which suggests that the reducing potential of the anoxic horizon in the gley soils contributes to the reduction of nitrate. Nitrate concentrations were higher in the groundwater of the parcel rich in organic matter than in the one poorer in organic matter. Phosphate (PO4-P) concentrations in both shallow and deep groundwater are less than 62 to 76% of those found in surface water which can be related to the retention capacity of the clay colloids of these soils. Moreover, the temporal variations in nutrient concentrations in groundwater are directly related to variations in groundwater level during an annual hydrological cycle. Our results suggest that variations in groundwater level regulate spatio-temporal variations in nutrient concentrations in groundwater as a result of the oxidation–reduction status of soil, which creates favourable or unfavourable conditions for nutrient bioavailability. The hydrological variations are much more important than those concerning substrate and type of vegetation.

Item Type:Article
Audience (journal):International peer-reviewed journal
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Institution:French research institutions > Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - CNRS
Other partners > Université Louis Pasteur-Strasbourg I - ULP (FRANCE)
Other partners > Université de Strasbourg - UNISTRA (FRANCE)
Laboratory name:
Deposited By:Florence Amor

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