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Salt impacts on organic carbon and nitrogen leaching from senesced vegetation

M. Kate Steele, Jacqueline A. Aitkenhead-Peterson
Biogeochemistry 2013 v.112 no.1-3 pp. 245-259
dissolved organic nitrogen, electrical conductivity, dissolved organic carbon, anthropogenic activities, deicing agents, sodium bicarbonate, salt concentration, sodium, surface water, calcium chloride, leaching, sodium chloride, hydrochemistry, adsorption, irrigation water, salinity, streams, vegetation, sodicity
Senesced vegetation is exposed to a wide range of salt concentrations in surface waters resulting from human activities which include deicing salts and irrigation water chemistry. Both dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and salt concentrations are rising in northern hemisphere watersheds, yet there has been little investigation of sodium as a potential mechanism for DOC increases. The objective of this study was to investigate the impact of solution sodicity and salinity on DOC and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) leaching from five types of senesced and cut vegetation. Vegetation was soaked for 24 h in a series of sodium chloride (NaCl)–calcium chloride (CaCl₂) solutions with sodium adsorption ratios (SAR) of 2, 10, or 30 and electrical conductivities of 0.1 dS m⁻¹ through 3.0 dS m⁻¹. Vegetation was also soaked in a sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO₃) solution at SAR = 30 and stream water from local watersheds with a range of sodicity and salinity. The mass of both DOC and DON released increased as SAR increased in the NaCl solutions, but the total salinity had inconsistent effects on DOC and DON release. NaHCO₃ leached similar amounts of DOC and DON as NaCl. The SAR of the stream water solutions was able to explain 88 % of the variability in DOC leached from vegetation (p < 0.05). The results indicated that sodicity, quantified by SAR, had a significant impact on DOC and DON leaching from senesced vegetation and could be a potential mechanism to explain the observed increases in surface water DOC.