Hydrology and Land Surface Studies
Tracing sources of nitrate in snowmelt runoff using a high-resolution isotopic technique
Article first published online: 6 NOV 2004
Copyright 2004 by the American Geophysical Union.
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 31, Issue 21, November 2004
How to Cite
2004), Tracing sources of nitrate in snowmelt runoff using a high-resolution isotopic technique, Geophys. Res. Lett., 31, L21506, doi:10.1029/2004GL020908., , , , , , and (
- Issue published online: 6 NOV 2004
- Article first published online: 6 NOV 2004
- Manuscript Accepted: 11 OCT 2004
- Manuscript Revised: 14 SEP 2004
- Manuscript Received: 3 JUL 2004
 The denitrifier method to determine the dual isotopic composition (δ15N and δ18O) of nitrate is well suited for studies of nitrogen contributions to streams during runoff events. This method requires only 70 nmol of NO3− and enables high throughput of samples. We studied nitrate sources to a headwater stream during snowmelt by generating a high-temporal resolution dataset at the Sleepers River Research Watershed in Vermont, USA. In the earliest phase of runoff, stream NO3− concentrations were highest and stream discharge, NO3− concentrations, and δ18O of NO3− generally tracked one another during diurnal melting. The isotopic composition of stream NO3− varied in-between atmospheric and groundwater NO3− end members indicating a direct contribution of atmospherically-derived NO3− from the snow pack to the stream. During the middle to late phases of snowmelt, the source shifted toward soil NO3− entering the stream via shallow subsurface flow paths.