Interpreting the effect of soil texture on transport and removal of nitrate-N in saline coastal tidal flats under steady-state flow condition

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Abstract

Tidal-flats play important roles in oceanic nitrogen (N) cycles. Particularly, N loss in the tidal-flats depends on soil texture and yet the dominant N removal mechanism in relation to soil texture is not clear. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate the effect of soil texture on NO3--N removal and transport in texturally contrasting tidal-flats of the western coast of Korea [Gangwha (GH, silt) and Saemangeum (SMG, loamy sand) sites]. To interpret the experimental results, we compared the time-course patterns of NO3--N disappearance during incubation under intertidal and subtidal conditions and the patterns of breakthrough curves (BTCs) of NO3--N with a conservative tracer (Br-) during miscible displacement experiment. Nitrate disappearance by denitrification was negligible for SMG soils, but was 1.6 and 2.3mgNkg-1 soil day-1 under intertidal and subtidal conditions for GH soils, respectively. The BTCs of NO3--N and Br- were identical and followed Gaussian distributions in SMG tidal-flats, while those obtained for GH tidal-flats were broad and asymmetrical. Calculated Pêclet number of Br- in seawater matrix by fitting the CXTFIT model to the measured BTCs was 45.03 for SMG and 4.93 for GH tidal-flats, indicating dominance of advection over dispersion for the former, and vice versa for the latter. From a mass balance of NO3--N, nearly all of the added NO3--N (38.8mg) was recovered in the effluents with a slight unaccounted-for portion (2.8mg) in SMG system, indicating the possibility of an intense off-shore NO3--N discharge (leaching) from the tidal-flats. In contrast, a considerably large amount (27.0mg) of added NO3--N was not recovered in GH system but nearly one-third (13.5mg) was recovered in the effluents, suggesting that denitrification dominates over off-shore discharge in NO3--N removal. Our results showed that the patterns of NO3--N removal was different depending on soil texture of the tidal-flats and that a dominant mechanism of NO3--N removal was denitrification in GH tidal-flats and was off-shore discharge in SMG tidal-flats. Therefore, NO3--N removal characteristics of tidal-flats should be predetermined for site-specific management of waste water N loadings to coastal water systems. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

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Lee, M. J., Hwang, S. I., & Ro, H. M. (2014). Interpreting the effect of soil texture on transport and removal of nitrate-N in saline coastal tidal flats under steady-state flow condition. Continental Shelf Research, 84, 35–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.csr.2014.04.018

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