Routing nitrate through backwaters of regulated floodplain rivers to increase retention could decrease loading to nitrogen (N)-sensitive coastal regions. Sediment core determinations of N flux were combined with inflow-outflow fluxes to develop mass balance approximations of N uptake and transformations in a flow-controlled backwater of the Upper Mississippi River (USA). Inflow was the dominant nitrate source (>95%) versus nitrification and varied as a function of source water concentration since flow was constant. Nitrate uptake length increased linearly, while uptake velocity decreased linearly, with increasing inflow concentration to 2 mg l-1, indicating limitation of N uptake by loading. N saturation at higher inflow concentration coincided with maximum uptake capacity, 40% uptake efficiency, and an uptake length 2 times greater than the length of the backwater. Nitrate diffusion and denitrification in sediment accounted for 27% of the backwater nitrate retention, indicating that assimilation by other biota or denitrification on other substrates were the dominant uptake mechanisms. Ammonium export from the backwater was driven by diffusive efflux from the sediment. Ammonium increased from near zero at the inflow to a maximum mid-lake, then declined slightly toward the outflow due to uptake during transport. Ammonium export was small compared to nitrate retention. ?? 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Additional publication details
Contribution of sediment fluxes and transformations to the summer nitrogen budget of an Upper Mississippi River backwater system