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Denitrification Potential in Stormwater Control Structures and Natural Riparian Zones in an Urban Landscape

Journal Article

Neil Bettez, Peter Groffman

Humans have significantly altered urban landscapes, creating impervious surfaces, and changing drainage patterns that increase volume and velocity as well as frequency and timing of runoff following precipitation events. These changes in runoff have impaired streams and riparian areas that previously reduced watershed nitrogen (N) flux through uptake and denitrification. Stormwater control measures (SCM) are used most frequently to mitigate these hydrologic impacts. While SCM control runoff, their ability to remove N compared to natural riparian areas is not well-known. In this study we compared potential denitrification [as denitrification enzyme activity (DEA)] in five types of SCM (wet ponds, dry detention ponds, dry extended detention, infiltration basin, and filtering practices) and forested and herbaceous riparian areas in Baltimore, MD. DEA was higher in SCM (1.2 mg N kg(-1) hr(-1)) than in riparian areas (0.4 mg N kg(-1) hr(-1)). While DEA was highly correlated with soil moisture, organic matter, microbial biomass, and soil respiration areas across sites, it was always higher in SCM at equivalent levels of these variables. SCM appear to function as denitrification hotspots and, despite having similar microbial biomass, have higher potential denitrification than natural riparian areas.

Year of Publication
Environ Sci Technol
Related Project
Baltimore Ecosystem Study