The relative magnitudes of, and factors controlling, denitrification and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) were measured in the soil of a re-connected temperate floodplain divided into four different land management zones (grazing grassland, hay meadow, fritillary meadow and a buffer zone). Soil samples were collected from each zone to measure their respective potentials for nitrate attenuation using 15N both at the surface and at depth in the soil column and additional samples were collected to measure the lability of the organic carbon. Denitrification capacity ranged between 0.4 and 4.2 (μmol N g -1 dry soil d -1) across the floodplain topsoil and DNRA capacity was an order of magnitude lower (0.01-0.71 μmol N g -1 d -1). Land management practice had a significant effect on denitrification but no significant effects were apparent for DNRA. In this nitrogen-rich landscape, spatial heterogeneity in denitrification was explained by differences in lability and the magnitude of organic carbon associated with different management practices (mowing and grazing). The lability of organic carbon was significantly higher in grazing grassland in comparison to other ungrazed areas of the floodplain, and consequently denitrification capacity was also highest in this area. Our results indicate that bacteria capable of DNRA do survive in frequently flooded riparian zones, and to a limited extent, compete with denitrification for nitrate, acting to retain and recycle nitrogen in the floodplain. Exponential declines in both denitrification and DNRA capacity with depth in the floodplain soils of a hay meadow and buffer zone were controlled primarily by the organic carbon content of the soils. Furthermore, grazing could be employed in re-connected, temperate floodplains to enhance the potential for nitrate removal from floodwaters via denitrification.
- Land use management
- River restoration