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Streams natural filters, if not overloaded
Date:3/12/2008

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The scientists found that the nitrate was taken up from stream water by algae and microorganisms. In addition, a fraction was permanently removed from streams by denitrification, a bacterial process that converts nitrate to nitrogen gas, which harmlessly joins an atmosphere already predominantly composed of nitrogen gas.

In the second phase of the study, the scientists developed a model that predicts nitrate removal as water flows through small streams and into larger streams and rivers. Our model showed that the entire stream network is important in removing pollution from stream water, said Patrick Mulholland, lead author of the study, a member of ORNLs Environmental Sciences Division, and a faculty member at the University of Tennessee. In addition, the effectiveness of streams to remove nitrate was greatest if the streams were not overloaded by pollutants such as fertilizers and wastes from human activities.

The largest removal occurred when nitrate entered small healthy streams and traveled throughout the network before reaching large rivers. The scientists concluded from their research that streams and rivers are effective filters that help reduce the amount of nitrate pollution exported from landscapes and thereby reduce eutrophication problems, Webster said.


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Contact: Susan Trulove
STrulove@vt.edu
540-231-5646
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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