Urban nitrogen biogeochemistry: Status and processes in green retention basins

Wei Xing Zhu, Noah D. Dillard, Nancy Grimm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Nitrogen (N) cycling has been poorly characterized in urban ecosystems. Processes involving N are of specific concern due to increasing anthropogenic inputs from fertilizer uses and fossil fuel combustion in cities. Here we report on a study of N biogeochemistry in city green retention basins and city parks in the Phoenix metropolitan area, Arizona, USA. City retention basins receive N inputs from street runoff, and along with city parks, fertilizer input from management, making these urban patches potential hot spots for biogeochemical cycling. We sampled soils from six retention basins and two non-retention city parks and measured soil organic matter (SOM) content, net N mineralization, net nitrification, denitrification potential, and intact core denitrification flux and nitrate retention. Our results showed significantly higher SOM, extractable nitrate, nitrification rates and potential denitrification rates in surface soils (0-7.5cm; soil that is directly affected by fertilizer N input, irrigation, and storm runoff) than in deeper soils. We also observed a distinct horizontal trend of decreasing SOM and denitrification potentials from inlet to outlet (dry well) in the retention basins. Denitrification rates, measured both as potential rates with substrate amendment (390-1151ngN 2O-Ng -1soilh -1), and as intact core fluxes (3.3-57.6mgNm -2d -1), were comparable to the highest rates reported in literature for other ecosystems. Management practices that affect biogeochemical processes in urban retention basins thus could affect the whole-city N cycling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-196
Number of pages20
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1 2004


  • Anthropogenic inputs
  • Denitrification
  • Nitrification
  • Retention basin
  • Urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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