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Organic nitrogen exports from urban stormwater wetlands in North Carolina
- Moore, Trisha L.C., Hunt, William F., Burchell, Michael R., Hathaway, Jon M.
- Ecological engineering 2011 v.37 no.4 pp. 589-594
- constructed wetlands, landscapes, nitrogen, nitrogen content, seasonal variation, stormwater, urban runoff, winter, North Carolina
- Effluent organic nitrogen concentrations from seven constructed stormwater wetlands in North Carolina were examined to compare background organic nitrogen (ON) concentrations and the fraction of organic nitrogen relative to total nitrogen discharged. Seasonal influences on organic nitrogen concentrations were also examined. The median ON concentration from the stormwater wetlands was 0.78mgl⁻¹, and despite differences in wetland design and influent ON characteristics, outlet ON concentrations from all but one wetland were not significantly different. ON export from all stormwater wetlands was significantly less than untreated runoff entering the wetlands (p=0.002). In addition, median organic:total nitrogen (ON:TN) ratios from stormwater wetlands (0.75) were significantly greater than from untreated urban runoff (0.66), comparing more closely to ON:TN ratios collected from a naturally occurring wetland and reported in the literature for natural landscapes. Seasonal differences in organic nitrogen concentrations were identified with significantly lower concentrations during the winter. Though stormwater wetlands will not (and perhaps should not be expected to) completely remove total nitrogen loads from runoff, these results suggest constructed wetlands can play a role in restoring the balance between organic and inorganic nitrogen forms closer to that of an undisturbed landscape. The presence of background organic nitrogen concentrations from stormwater wetlands similar to those from a naturally occurring wetland highlights the importance of choosing appropriate metrics (e.g., effluent concentrations) when assessing treatment performance.