Controls on nitrogen transformation rates on restored floodplains along the Cosumnes River, California

B. Hoagland, C. Schmidt, T. A. Russo, R. Adams, J. Kaye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Levee construction results in the systematic replumbing of river systems and reduces the frequency of floodplain inundation, which impacts nutrient delivery and transformations in floodplains. Floodplain restoration via levee removal affects downstream water quality by restoring soil microbial metabolic pathways such as denitrification, anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox), and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA). Although these metabolisms are important for the nitrogen cycle, few studies have quantified the contribution of all three pathways to nitrate retention or loss in restored floodplains. The objectives of this study were to quantify the relevance of denitrification, anammox and DNRA to nitrogen retention, characterize the hydrologic conditions most favorable to each pathway, and estimate the potential for floodplain restoration to improve nitrogen cycling in the Cosumnes River watershed. To address these goals, we simulated flood conditions in soil mesocosms collected from two floodplains where levees were breached in 1997 and 2014 along the Lower Cosumnes River in the San Joaquin Basin of California. River water enriched with K15NO3 tracer was pumped into each mesocosm at a constant rate for a period of 3 months. Samples were collected from the surface water and soil pore water for measurements of NO3 , NO2 , and NH4 + concentrations, and δ15N of dissolved gases (N2 and N2O). To the best of our knowledge, this study reports the highest relative contribution to N2 production due to anammox for freshwater systems (41 to 84%) to date. High anammox rates were associated with heterogeneous grain size distribution across depth and high nitrification rates. We quantify the capacity of restored floodplain soils with distinct textural and chemical characteristics to retain or release nitrogen during large and small floods in a particular water year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)979-994
Number of pages16
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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