Articles | Volume 11, issue 19
Research article
02 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 02 Oct 2014

Speciation and dynamics of dissolved inorganic nitrogen export in the Danshui River, Taiwan

T.-Y. Lee, Y.-T. Shih, J.-C. Huang, S.-J. Kao, F.-K. Shiah, and K.-K. Liu

Abstract. Human-induced excess nitrogen outflowing from land through rivers to oceans has resulted in serious impacts on terrestrial and coastal ecosystems. Oceania, which occupies < 2.5% of the global land surface, delivers 12% of the freshwater and dissolved materials to the ocean on a global scale. However, there are few empirical data sets on riverine dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) fluxes in the region, and their dynamics are poorly understood. In this study, a river monitoring network covering different types of land uses and population densities was implemented to investigate the mechanism of DIN export. The results show that DIN concentration/yield varied from ∼20 μM/∼300 kg-N km−2 yr−1 to ∼378 μM/∼10 000 kg-N km−2 yr−1 from the relatively pristine headwaters to the populous estuary. Agriculture and population density control DIN export in less densely populated regions and urban areas, respectively, and runoff controls DIN at the watershed scale. Compared to documented estimates from global models, the observed DIN export from the Danshui River is 2.3 times larger, which results from the region-specific response of DIN yield to dense population and abundant runoff. The dominating DIN species change gradually from NO3 in the headwaters (∼97%) to NH4+ in the estuary (∼60%) following the urbanization gradient. The prominent existence of NH4+ is probably the result of the anaerobic water body and short residence time, unlike in large river basins. Given the analogous watershed characteristics of the Danshui River to the rivers in Oceania, our study could serve as a first example to examine riverine DIN fluxes in Oceania.

Final-revised paper