A tentative nitrogen budget for the Westerschelde (SW Netherlands) is constructed by means of a simulation model with thirteen spatial compartments. Biochemical and chemical processes in the water column are dynamically modeled; fluxes of dissolved constituents across the water-bottom interface are expressed by means of diagenetic equations. The model is calibrated on a large amount of observed variables in the estuary (1980-1986) with relatively fine temporal and spatial detail. Additional constraints are imposed by the stoichiometric coupling of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen flows and the required conservation of mass. The model is able to reproduce rather well the observed distributions of nitrate, ammonium, oxygen and Kjeldahl nitrogen both in time and space. Also, model output of biochemical oxygen demand and total organic carbon falls within observed ranges. By far the most pervasive process in the nitrogen cycle of the estuary is nitrification which mainly takes place in the water column of the upper estuarine part. On average about three times as much nitrate is leaving the estuary at the sea side compared to what enters from the river and from waste discharges. Ammonium on the other hand is consumed much faster (nitrification) than it is regenerated and only about one third of the total import leaves the estuary at the sea side. The budget for detrital nitrogen reveals import from the river, from wastes and from the sea. Phytoplankton uptake of inorganic nitrogen is negligible in the model. About 21% of total nitrogen, 33% of inorganic nitrogen, is removed from the estuary (mainly to the atmosphere through denitrification) and the load of nitrogen net exported to the sea amounts to about 51000 tonnes per year. Total denitrification in our model is lower than what was estimated in the literature from the late seventies, where a nitrogen removal up to 40-50% of the total inorganic load was reported. Part of the differences could be methodological, but inspection of the nutrient profiles that led to these conclusions show them to be different to the ones used in our study. The oxygen deficient zone has moved upstream since the late seventies, entrailing the zone of denitrification into the riverine part of the Schelde. The nitrification process now starts immediately upon entering the estuary. [KEYWORDS: Nitrogen; budget; nitrification; denitrification; westerschelde; estuary Organic-carbon; north-sea; nitrifying bacteria; southern bight; st-lawrence; denitrification; sediments; budget]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-246
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 1995

ID: 113471