Isotopologue ratios of N 2O and N 2measurements underpin the importance of denitrification in differently NitrogenenN -loaded riparian alder forests
Known as biogeochemical hotspots in landscapes, riparian buffer zones exhibit considerable potential concerning mitigation of groundwater contaminants such as nitrate, but may in return enhance the risk for indirect N2O emission. Here we aim to assess and to compare two riparian gray alder forests in terms of gaseous N2O and N2 fluxes and dissolved N2O, N2, and NO3- in the near-surface groundwater. We further determine for the first time isotopologue ratios of N2O dissolved in the riparian groundwater in order to support our assumption that it mainly originated from denitrification. The study sites, both situated in Estonia, northeastern Europe, receive contrasting N loads from adjacent uphill arable land. Whereas N2O emissions were rather small at both sites, average gaseous N2-to-N2O ratios inferred from closed-chamber measurements and He-O laboratory incubations were almost four times smaller for the heavily loaded site. In contrast, groundwater parameters were less variable among sites and between landscape positions. Campaign-based average 15N site preferences of N2O (SP) in riparian groundwater ranged between 11 and 44. Besides the strong prevalence of N2 emission over N2O fluxes and the correlation pattern between isotopologue and water quality data, this comparatively large range highlights the importance of denitrification and N2O reduction in both riparian gray alder stands.