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Excess nitrate (NO−3) in lakes and streams has deleterious effects for environmental and human health. Nitrate concentrations have become problematic in agricultural watersheds due to increased use of fertilizers and improper management of livestock wastes. Research has indicated that the planting and/or preservation of riparian buffer zones can be an effective means of reducing pollution from agricultural fields (Osborne and Kovacic, 1993; Jordan et al., 1992; Simmons et al., 1992). Biological denitrification is the most desirable means of nitrate attenuation as the microbial conversion of N−3 removes nitrate from the watershed in the form of N gases. Despite the inherent value of biological denitrification, a comprehensive review discussing the role of this process in removing nitrate from riparian zones is lacking. In this paper we examine the results and conclusions of past research on the topic of denitrification in riparian zones and make recommendations for future research in this area. The need for subsurface denitrification assays in riparian zones is emphasized.

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