Nitrogen Subsidies from Hillslope Alder Stands to Streamside Wetlands and Headwater Streams, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

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surface water/groundwater interactions, surface water hydrology, groundwater hydrology, watershed management, Alnus, Calamagrostis, connectivity, nitrogen, 15N

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We examined nitrogen transport and wetland primary production along hydrologic flow paths that link nitrogen‐fixing alder (Alnus spp.) stands to downslope wetlands and streams in the Kenai Lowlands, Alaska. We expected that nitrate concentrations in surface water and groundwater would be higher on flow paths below alder. We further expected that nitrate concentrations would be higher in surface water and groundwater at the base of short flow paths with alder and that streamside wetlands at the base of alder‐near flow paths would be less nitrogen limited than wetlands at the base of long flow paths with alder. Our results showed that groundwater nitrate‐N concentrations were significantly higher at alder‐near sites than at no‐alder sites, but did not differ significantly between alder‐far sites and no‐alder sites or between alder‐far sites and alder‐near sites. A survey of 15N stable isotope signatures in soils and foliage in alder‐near and no‐alder flow paths indicated the alder‐derived nitrogen evident in soils below alder is quickly integrated downslope. Additionally, there was a significant difference in the relative increase in plant biomass after nitrogen fertilization, with the greatest increase occurring in the no‐alder sites. This study demonstrates that streamside wetlands and streams are connected to the surrounding landscapes through hydrologic flow paths, and flow paths with alder stands are potential “hot spots” for nitrogen subsidies at the hillslope scale.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association, v. 53, issue 2, p. 478-492