• 1 Chemistry Department, Faculty of Science, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • 2 Department of Environmental Science and Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, United States of America
  • 3 Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, University of Florida, Wimauma, FL, United States of America
PLoS One, 2020;15(2):e0229715.
PMID: 32109256 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0229715


Stormwater runoff is a leading cause of nitrogen (N) transport to water bodies and hence one means of water quality deterioration. Stormwater runoff was monitored in an urban residential catchment (drainage area: 3.89 hectares) in Florida, United States to investigate the concentrations, forms, and sources of N. Runoff samples were collected over 22 storm events (May to September 2016) at the end of a stormwater pipe that delivers runoff from the catchment to the stormwater pond. Various N forms such as ammonium (NH4-N), nitrate (NOx-N), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), and particulate organic nitrogen (PON) were determined and isotopic characterization tools were used to infer sources of NO3-N and PON in collected runoff samples. The DON was the dominant N form in runoff (47%) followed by PON (22%), NOx-N (17%), and NH4-N (14%). Three N forms (NOx-N, NH4-N, and PON) were positively correlated with total rainfall and antecedent dry period, suggesting longer dry periods and higher rainfall amounts are significant drivers for transport of these N forms. Whereas DON was positively correlated to only rainfall intensity indicating that higher intensity rain may flush out DON from soils and cause leaching of DON from particulates present in the residential catchment. We discovered, using stable isotopes of NO3-, a shifting pattern of NO3- sources from atmospheric deposition to inorganic N fertilizers in events with higher and longer duration of rainfall. The stable isotopes of PON confirmed that plant material (oak detritus, grass clippings) were the primary sources of PON in stormwater runoff. Our results demonstrate that practices targeting both inorganic and organic N are needed to control N transport from residential catchments to receiving waters.

* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.