Riparian wetlands are subject to nitrogen enrichment from upgradient agricultural and urban land uses and also from flooding by nitrogen-enriched surface waters. The effects of this N enrichment on wetland soil biogeochemistry may be mediated by both the presence of plants and the presence of redox-active compounds, specifically iron oxides in the soil. Despite the extensive research on wetland N cycling, the relative importance of these two factors on nitrogen is poorly known, especially for forested wetlands. This study evaluates the responses of the N and the Fe cycles to N enrichment in a riparian forested wetland, contrasting vegetated field plots with plots where the vegetation was removed to test the role of plants. Furthermore, in vitro anaerobic incubations of the experimental soils were performed to track Fe chemical changes over time under anoxic or flooded conditions. Wetland soils treated with N in form of urea, as expected, had significantly higher amounts inorganic nitrogen. In the soils where vegetation was also removed, in addition to inorganic nitrogen pool, increase in organic nitrogen pool was also observed. The results demonstrate the role of vegetation in limiting the effects excess urea has on different soil nitrogen pools. Results from anaerobic incubation of the experimental soils demonstrated the effects of N enrichment on the wetland Fe cycle. The effects of excess nitrogen and the role of vegetation on the Fe cycle in riparian wetland soil became more evident during anaerobic incubation experiments. At the end of the field experiment, Fe concentrations in the soils under the treatments were not significantly different from the control soils at the 5% confidence level. However, during the anaerobic incubation experiment of soils collected at the end of the experiment from these plots, the N-enriched soils and the unvegetated soils maintained significantly elevated concentrations of reducible Fe(III) for the initial 2-week period of incubation, and the soils collected from the plots with both the treatments had the highest Fe(III) concentrations. After 20 days of incubation, however, the Fe(III) concentrations decreased to the similar concentrations in all the incubated soils. The study clarifies the roles vegetation play in mediating the effects of N enrichment and also demonstrates that N enrichment does affect wetland redox cycle, which has strong implications on ecosystem services such as water quality improvement.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Ecological Modeling
- Water Science and Technology