The aim of this work was to couple a nitrogen (N) sub-model to already existent hydrological lumped (LU4-N) and semi-distributed (LU4-R-N and SD4-R-N) conceptual models, to improve our understanding of the factors and processes controlling nitrogen cycling and losses in Mediterranean catchments. The N model adopted provides a simplified conceptualization of the soil nitrogen cycle considering mineralization, nitrification, immobilization, denitrification, plant uptake, and ammonium adsorption/desorption. It also includes nitrification and denitrification in the shallow perched aquifer. We included a soil moisture threshold for all the considered soil biological processes. The results suggested that all the nitrogen processes were highly influenced by the rain episodes and that soil microbial processes occurred in pulses stimulated by soil moisture increasing after rain. Our simulation highlighted the riparian zone as a possible source of nitrate, especially after the summer drought period, but it can also act as an important sink of nitrate due to denitrification, in particular during the wettest period of the year. The riparian zone was a key element to simulate the catchment nitrate behaviour. The lumped LU4-N model (which does not include the riparian zone) could not be validated, while both the semi-distributed LU4-R-N and SD4-R-N model (which include the riparian zone) gave satisfactory results for the calibration process and acceptable results for the temporal validation process
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