Closing the N-Budget: How Simulated Groundwater-Borne Nitrate Supply Affects Plant Growth and Greenhouse Gas Emissions on Temperate Grassland
European groundwater reservoirs are frequently subject to reactive nitrogen pollution (Nr) owing to the intensive use of nitrogen (N) fertilizer and animal manure in agriculture. Besides its risk on human health, groundwater Nr loading also affects the carbon (C) and N cycle of associated ecosystems. For a temperate grassland in Germany, the ... long-term (12 years) annual average exports of Nr in form of harvest exceeded Nr inputs via fertilization and deposition by more than 50 kgN ha -1. We hypothesize that the resulting deficit in the N budget of the plant-soil system could be closed by Nr input via the groundwater. To test this hypothesis, the ecosystem model LandscapeDNDC was used to simulate the C and N cycle of the respective grassland under different model setups, i.e., with and without additional Nr inputs via groundwater transport. Simulated plant nitrate uptake compensated the measured N deficit for 2 of 3 plots and lead to substantial improvements regarding the match between simulated and observed plant biomass and CO2 emission. This suggests that the C and N cycle of the investigated grassland were influenced by Nr inputs via groundwater transport. We also found that inputs of nitrate-rich groundwater increased the modelled nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, while soil water content was not affected.