alexa Present limitations and future prospects of stable isotope methods for nitrate source identification in surface- and groundwater
Environmental Sciences

Environmental Sciences

Journal of Pollution Effects & Control

Author(s): Dongmei Xue, Jorin Botte, Bernard De Baets, Frederik Accoe, Angelika Nestler

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Nitrate (NO3−) contamination of surface- and groundwater is an environmental problem in many regions of the world with intensive agriculture and high population densities. Knowledge of the sources of NO3− contamination in water is important for better management of water quality. Stable nitrogen (δ15N) and oxygen (δ18O) isotope data of NO3− have been frequently used to identify NO3− sources in water. This review summarizes typical δ15N- and δ18O-NO3− ranges of known NO3− sources, interprets constraints and future outlooks to quantify NO3− sources, and describes three analytical techniques (“ion-exchange method”, “bacterial denitrification method”, and “cadmium reduction method”) for δ15N- and δ18O-NO3− determination. Isotopic data can provide evidence for the presence of dominant NO3− sources. However, quantification, including uncertainty assessment, is lacking when multiple NO3− sources are present. Moreover, fractionation processes are often ignored, but may largely constrain the accuracy of NO3− source identification. These problems can be overcome if (1) NO3− isotopic data are combined with co-migrating discriminators of NO3− sources (e.g. 11B), which are not affected by transformation processes, (2) contributions of different NO3− sources can be quantified via linear mixing models (e.g. SIAR), and (3) precise, accurate and high throughput isotope analytical techniques become available.

This article was published in Water Research and referenced in Journal of Pollution Effects & Control

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