Soil nitrogen (N) is critical to ecosystem services and environmental quality. Hotspots of soil N in areas with high soil moisture have been widely studied, however, their spatial distribution and their linkage with soil N variation have seldom been examined at a catchment scale in areas with low soil water content. We investigated the spatial variation of soil N and its hotspots in a mixed land cover catchment on the Chinese Loess Plateau and used multiple statistical methods to evaluate the effects of the critical environmental factors on soil N variation and potential hotspots. The results demonstrated that land cover, soil moisture, elevation, plan curvature and flow accumulation were the dominant factors affecting the spatial variation of soil nitrate (NN), while land cover and slope aspect were the most important factors impacting the spatial distribution of soil ammonium (AN) and total nitrogen (TN). In the studied catchment, the forestland, gully land and grassland were found to be the potential hotspots of soil NN, AN and TN accumulation, respectively. We concluded that land cover and slope aspect could be proxies to determine the potential hotspots of soil N at the catchment scale. Overall, land cover was the most important factor that resulted in the spatial variations of soil N. The findings may help us to better understand the environmental factors affecting soil N hotspots and their spatial variation at the catchment scale in terrestrial ecosystems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Global and Planetary Change
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Earth-Surface Processes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation