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Vegetated Ditch Habitats Provide Net Nitrogen Sink and Phosphorus Storage Capacity in Agricultural Drainage Networks Despite Senescent Plant Leaching

  • taylor, jason
  • moore, matthew
  • speir, shannon l.
  • testa, sam
Publication Date
Mar 20, 2020
DOI: 10.3390/w12030875
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The utility of vegetated ditch environments as nutrient sinks in agricultural watersheds is dependent in part on biogeochemical transformations that control plant uptake and release during decomposition. We investigated nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) uptake and release across four P enrichment treatments in ditch mesocosms planted with rice cutgrass (Leersia oryzoides) during the summer growing and winter decomposition seasons. Measured N retention and modeled denitrification rates did not vary, but P retention significantly increased with P enrichment. At the end of the growing season, root biomass stored significantly more N and P than aboveground stem and leaf biomass. Decomposition rates were low (&lt / 10% organic matter loss) and not affected by P enrichment. Nitrogen and P export during winter did not vary across the P enrichment gradient. Export accounted for &lt / 10% of observed summer N uptake (1363 mg m&minus / 2), with denitrification potentially accounting for at least 40% of retained N. In contrast, net P retention was dependent on enrichment / in unenriched mesocosms, P uptake and release were balanced (only 25% net retention), whereas net retention increased from 77% to 88% with increasing P enrichment. Our results indicate that vegetated ditch environments have significant potential to serve as denitrification sinks, while also storing excess P in agricultural watersheds.

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