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Journal of Arid Land  2024, Vol. 16 Issue (5): 685-698    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-024-0099-7
Research article     
Environmental dynamics of nitrogen and phosphorus release from river sediments of arid areas
SU Wenhao1,2,3, WU Chengcheng3, Sun Xuanxuan3, LEI Rongrong2, LEI Li2, WANG Ling2,3, ZHU Xinping1,*()
1College of Bioscience and Resources Environment, Beijing University of Agriculture, Beijing 102206, China
2Xinjiang Tianxi Environmental Protection Technology Co. Ltd., Urumqi 830000, China
3College of Resources and Environment Sciences, Xinjiang Agricultural University, Urumqi 830052, China
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Human activities lead to the accumulation of a large amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in sediments in rivers. Simultaneously, nitrogen and phosphorus can be affected by environment and re-enter the upper water body, causing secondary pollution of the river water. In this study, laboratory simulation experiments were conducted initially to investigate the release of nitrogen and phosphorus from river sediments in Urumqi City and the surrounding areas in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China and determine the factors that influence their release. The results of this study showed significant short-term differences in nitrogen and phosphorus release characteristics from sediments at different sampling points. The proposed secondary kinetics model (i.e., pseudo-second-order kinetics model) better fitted the release process of sediment nitrogen and phosphorus. The release of nitrogen and phosphorus from sediments is a complex process driven by multiple factors, therefore, we tested the influence of three factors (pH, temperature, and disturbance intensity) on the release of nitrogen and phosphorus from sediments in this study. The most amount of nitrate nitrogen (NO3--N) was released under neutral conditions, while the most significant release of ammonia nitrogen (NH4+-N) occurred under acidic and alkaline conditions. The release of nitrite nitrogen (NO2--N) was less affected by pH. The dissolved total phosphorus (DTP) released significantly in the alkaline water environment, while the release of dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) was more significant in acidic water. The release amount of soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) increased with an increase in pH. The sediments released nitrogen and phosphorus at higher temperatures, particularly NH4+-N, NO3--N, and SRP. The highest amount of DOP was released at 15.0°C. An increase in disturbance intensity exacerbated the release of nitrogen and phosphorus from sediments. NH4+-N, DTP, and SRP levels increased linearly with the intensity of disturbance, while NO3--N and NO2--N were more stable. This study provides valuable information for protecting and restoring the water environment in arid areas and has significant practical reference value.

Key wordssediment      nitrogen and phosphorus      environmental dynamics      pseudo-second-order kinetics model      dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP)      Urumqi City     
Received: 14 December 2023      Published: 31 May 2024
Corresponding Authors: *ZHU Xinping (E-mail:
Cite this article:

SU Wenhao, WU Chengcheng, Sun Xuanxuan, LEI Rongrong, LEI Li, WANG Ling, ZHU Xinping. Environmental dynamics of nitrogen and phosphorus release from river sediments of arid areas. Journal of Arid Land, 2024, 16(5): 685-698.

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Fig. 1 A schematic illustration of the locations of sampling sites in Urumqi City
Sediment property Sampling site
S1 S2 S3
Coordinate 44º08′46′′N, 87º35′19′′E 44º10′02′′N, 87º35′40′′E 44º10′48′′N, 87º37′09′′E
pH 7.71 7.71 7.76
Water content (%) 55.00 38.48 40.88
Organic matter (%) 8.52 8.27 5.78
Fe2O3 (%) 5.97 5.90 5.67
Al2O3 (%) 15.73 12.23 13.19
CaO (%) 7.45 3.10 1.49
Total nitrogen (mg/kg) 3084.62 3539.30 2709.39
Total phosphorus (mg/kg) 1135.64 1729.53 1803.16
Table 1 Physicochemical properties of sediments from the three selected sampling sites
Fig. 2 Release kinetic fitting curves of NH4+-N (a), NO3--N (b), NO2--N (c), DTP (d), SRP (e), and DOP (f) in sediments from different sampling sites. NH4+-N, ammonia nitrogen; NO3--N, nitrate nitrogen; NO2--N, nitrite nitrogen; DTP, total dissolved phosphorus; SRP, soluble reactive phosphorus; DOP, dissolved organic phosphorus.
Parameter Sampling site Pseudo-first-order kinetics model Pseudo-second-order kinetics model
Qe (mg/kg) k1 R2 Qe (mg/kg) k2 R2
NH4+-N S1 73.52 0.28 0.89 77.16 0.01 0.93
S2 51.28 0.36 0.98 52.57 0.02 0.99
S3 69.65 0.59 0.95 70.49 0.03 0.96
NO3--N S1 21.83 0.42 0.95 22.40 0.04 0.97
S2 36.86 0.36 0.99 37.47 0.03 0.99
S3 14.85 0.41 0.94 15.23 0.06 0.95
NO2--N S1 \ \ \ \ \ \
S2 2.82 0.01 0.71 3.38 0.00 0.73
S3 1.05 0.09 0.75 1.16 0.10 0.83
DTP S1 10.06 0.21 0.93 10.57 0.03 0.97
S2 18.72 0.28 0.98 19.37 0.03 1.00
S3 10.99 0.48 0.99 11.17 0.13 0.99
SRP S1 8.31 0.29 0.95 8.67 0.06 0.98
S2 15.12 0.29 0.98 15.65 0.04 0.99
S3 9.07 0.41 0.97 9.30 0.10 0.99
DOP S1 1.82 0.06 0.63 1.93 0.06 0.59
S2 3.60 0.26 0.84 3.72 0.14 0.85
S3 1.95 11.45 0.79 1.95 5.20×1044 0.79
Table 2 Parameters of fitting kinetics models for the release of nitrogen and phosphorus from sediments in different sampling sites
Fig. 3 Release of different forms of nitrogen (a) and phosphorus (b) from sediments under different pH conditions. Different capital letters indicate significant differences at P<0.05 level.
Fig. 4 Release of different forms of nitrogen (a) and phosphorus (b) from sediments at different temperatures. Different capital letters indicate significant differences at P<0.05 level.
Fig. 5 Release of different forms of nitrogen (a) and phosphorus (b) from sediments under different disturbance intensities. Different capital letters indicate significant differences at P<0.05 level.
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