Leaching of nitrogen from forested catchments in Finland


  • Pirkko Kortelainen,

  • Sari Saukkonen,

  • Tuija Mattsson


This study provides an assessment on the spatial variability of the long-term leaching (8–23 years) of nitrogen and organic carbon from 22 forested catchments (0.69–56 km2). The catchments are located throughout Finland excluding the northernmost regions. The Kruunuoja catchment is located in a national park; the other catchments represent typical Finnish forestry land. The leaching from the 21 forestry land catchments can be considered to represent average leaching from Finnish forestry land since the most important forestry practices (ditching, clear-cutting, scarification, and fertilization) since the 1960s have affected about 2.4% of the catchment area per year (compare 2.5% in the entire country in 1980 and 2% in 1991). Moreover, the mean annual runoff from the catchments, 230–420 mm yr−1, agree with the mean annual runoff from Finland (301 mm yr−1 from 1931 to 1990). The major part of the nitrogen transported from the catchments consisted of organic nitrogen (on average 79%). The average inorganic nitrogen proportion ((NO3−N + NH4−N)/Ntot) was lowest (7.3%) in the Kruunuoja catchment and was highest (54%) in the southernmost Teeressuonoja catchment located in the highest anthropogenic nitrogen deposition area. The median C/N ratio in the study streams was high, ranging from 34 to 66. Nitrate leaching from the catchments varied between 2.8 (Kruunuoja) and 100 kg km−2 yr−1 (Teeressuonoja) and was negatively related to C/N ratio in stream water and latitude. The stepwise multiple regression model selected C/N ratio and nitrogen deposition which together explained 72% of the variation in NO3−N leaching. Retention of NO3−N deposition (calculated as ((input−output)/input) was high in all catchments, ranging from 0.99 in Kruunuoja to 0.67 in Teeressuonoja.