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Nitrate stable isotopes: tools for determining nitrate sources among different land uses in the Mississippi River Basin

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A study was conducted to determine whether NO3 stable isotopes (d15N and d18O), at natural abundance levels, could discriminate among NO3 sources from sites with different land uses at the basin scale. Water samples were collected from 24 sites in the Mississippi River Basin from five land-use categories: (1) large river basins (>34 590 km2) draining multiple land uses and smaller basins in which the predominant land use was (2) urban, (3) undeveloped, (4) crops, or (5) crops and livestock. Our data suggest that riverine nitrates from different land uses have overlapping but moderately distinct isotopic signatures. d18O data were critical in showing abrupt changes in NO3 source with discharge. The isotopic values of large rivers resembled crop sites, sites with livestock tended to have d15N values characteristic of manure, and urban sites tended to have high d18O values characteristic of atmospheric nitrate.

Notre étude a cherché à déterminer si les isotopes stables de NO3 (d15N et d18O), aux niveaux naturels d'abondance, permettent de distinguer les sources de NO3 provenant d'utilisations différentes des terres à l'échelle du bassin hydrographique. Des échantillons d'eau ont été prélevés à 24 sites du bassin hydrographique du Mississipi dans cinq catégories d'utilisation des terres: (1) de grands bassins hydrographiques de rivières (>34 590 km2) drainant des terres à utilisations multiples, ainsi que des bassins plus petits dans lesquels les terres étaient surtout (2) urbanisées, (3) non développées, (4) agricoles ou (5) agricoles et pâturables. Nos données laissent croire que les nitrates des rivières provenant de terres à usages différents possèdent des signatures modérément distinctes, bien qu'il y ait des chevauchements. Les données de d18O sont importantes pour indiquer les changements brusques de sources de NO3 dans le débit. Les valeurs isotopiques des grandes rivières ressemblent à celles des régions agricoles; les sites où il y a élevage ont des valeurs de d15N caractéristiques du fumier; les sites urbains ont de fortes valeurs de d18O caractéristiques des nitrates atmosphériques.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-12-01

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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