A comparison of nitogen fate and transport in catchments underlain by high and low permeability aquifers using chemical and isotopic tools.

Alison Orr, Marie Archbold, Ramon Aravenna, Ulrich Ofterdinger, Raymond Flynn

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


    Variability in nitrogen fate and transport in different catchments types is often not considered. This research considers the importance of such nitrogen processes within groundwater pathways in two agricultural catchments in Ireland; a well drained catchment, underlain by karstified Carboniferous limestone, and a poorly drained catchment, underlain by Silurian greywacke.
    Depth specific low-flow groundwater sampling was used to evaluate the hydrochemical stratification in groundwater. Groundwater samples, as well as surface water samples, along river courses were analysed for nitrogen species (NO3, NH4 and NO2) and nitrate isotopes (d15N and d18O) as well as field parameters and major ions
    The dominant nitrate (NO3) groundwater pathway in the poorly drained greywacke catchment is through the shallow weathered bedrock, as indicated by transmissivity values and the ionic and isotopic signatures, and a clear reduction in NO3 concentration is observed with depth. A similar chloride trend would suggest dilution is a major factor, however d15N and d18O isotopic values producing an enrichment ratio of 1.8 indicate that denitrification is also an important process involved in the fate of the NO3 within the groundwater flow system. This consistent trend with depth is in contrast to the stratification pattern observed in the karstified catchment. NO3 was not detected in the shallow groundwater pathway; the dominant groundwater pathway is in the deeper groundwater where there is little change in the nitrate isotope values with depth (d15N values range between 4.1 and 4.6 ‰). This deeper groundwater contributes the dominant proportion of the river flow through a number of springs. As a result, the deeper groundwater, springs and river have a similar ionic signature and NO3 concentration range (23 ± 3 mg/l). Despite this pattern, the NO3 isotopes show a distinct difference in isotopic values between the deeper groundwater in the diffuse karst and the springs indicating some denitrification is occurring during groundwater discharge into the river. Furthermore the isotopes give an indication of the variability of the spatial extent of the springs and the complexities of the fissures through which they are fed. The results of this study clearly show the importance of the geology in the fate and transport of NO3 in agricultural catchments.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2012
    EventIAH Annual International Congress - Niagara Falls, Canada
    Duration: 16 Sept 201221 Sept 2012


    ConferenceIAH Annual International Congress
    CityNiagara Falls


    Dive into the research topics of 'A comparison of nitogen fate and transport in catchments underlain by high and low permeability aquifers using chemical and isotopic tools.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this