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Clean Water: Minimizing Nitrogen Pollution

KBS scientists traced the flow of nitrogen through agricultural landscapes and revealed how management can be tailored to minimize nitrogen pollution to ground water. They documented the importance of spring-fed wetlands and headwater streams in removing excess nitrogen from ground water before it can cause harmful algal blooms downstream.

Burgin, A. J. and S. K. Hamilton. 2007. Have we overemphasized the role of denitrification in aquatic ecosystems? A review of nitrate removal pathways. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5:89-96.
Burgin, A.J., W.H. Yang, S.K. Hamilton, and W. Silver. 2011. Beyond C and N: How the microbial energy economy couples elemental cycles in diverse ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9(1): 44-52.
Mulholland, P. J., A. M. Helton, G. C. Poole, R. O. Hall, Jr., S. K. Hamilton, B. J. Peterson, J. L. Tank, L. R. Ashkenas, L. W. Cooper, C. N. Dahm, W. K. Dodds, S. Findlay, S. V. Gregory, N. B. Grimm, S. L. Johnson, W. H. McDowell, J. L. Meyer, H. M. Valett, J. R. Webster, C. Arango, J. J. Beaulieu, M. J. Bernot, A.J . Burgin, C. Crenshaw, L. Johnson, B. R. Niederlehner, J. M. O’Brien, J. D. Potter, R. W. Sheibley, D. J. Sobota, and S. M. Thomas. 2008. Stream denitrification across biomes and effects of anthropogenic nitrate loading. Nature 452:202-205.
Peterson, B.J., W.M. Wollheim, P.J. Mulholland, J. R. Webster, J.L. Meyer, J.L. Tank, E. Marti, W.B. Bowden, H.M. Valett, A.E. Hershey, W.B. McDowell, W.K. Dodds, S.K. Hamilton, S. Gregory, and D.D. Morrall. 2001. Control of nitrogen export from watersheds by headwater streams. Science 292: 86-90.
Syswerda, S. P., B. Basso, S. K. Hamilton, J. B. Tausig, and G. P. Robertson. 2012. Long-term nitrate loss along an agricultural intensity gradient in the Upper Midwest USA. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 149:10-19.
Dr. Stephen K. Hamilton
Wetlands are particularly important in removal of excess nitrogen from the landscape, but they are often drained for agriculture. Here KBS LTER scientist Lauren Kinsman collects water samples from a restored wetland on former drained cropland as part of a study on nutrient release from flooded soils.
S. Hamilton
KBS LTER research shows that average nitrate leaching to groundwater varies greatly with land management and can be reduced by using certain agronomic practices. Annual row crops were corn-soybean-wheat rotations along a manage- ment intensity gradient from conventional (fertilization, tillage), to no-till (but fertilized), reduced chemical input, and organic (biologically-based) management (no fertilizers; cover crops supply nitrogen). These cropped systems were compared with unmanaged fields and forests that were abandoned from agriculture years ago and are undergoing natural succession (change) toward becoming the native deciduous forest of the region.
Syswerda et al. 2012



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