Concentration versus salinity diagrams are the most widely used method to derive estuarine sources and sinks of nitrogen. This method can not distinguish conservative mixing due to a lack of activity, from that due to an approximate balance of sources and sinks. The combined study of concentration and nitrogen isotopic signatures may provide this information because balanced sources and sinks do affect the isotopic composition of dissolved inorganic nitrogen. This is illustrated with three cases of European tidal estuaries: the Scheldt (Belgium/The Netherlands), the Thames (U.K.) and the Loire Estuary (France). Concentration versus salinity diagrams for nitrate showed conservative mixing for the Thames and Loire estuaries and nitrate generation in the Scheldt Estuary. The d15N of nitrate versus salinity diagram confirmed the conservative behaviour for the Thames Estuary and the non-conservative behaviour for the Scheldt Estuary, but revealed active nitrate turnover in the Loire Estuary. Concentration and d15N of ammonium versus salinity diagrams consistently showed non-conservative mixing as a result of ammonium consumption.
Publication data from Jack Middelburg for BIOGEST (Nitrogen isotope tracing), meer
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