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Patterns of nitrogen (N) accumulation and turnover in riparian systems in semi-arid regions are poorly understood, particularly in those ecosystems that lack substantial inputs from nitrogen fixing vegetation. We investigated sources and fluxes of N in chronosequences of riparian forests along the regulated Green River and the free-flowing Yampa River in semi-arid northwestern Colorado. Both rivers lack significant inputs from N-fixing vegetation. Total soil nitrogen increased through time along both rivers, at a rate of about 7.8 g N m(-2) year(-1) for years 10-70, and 2.7 g N m(-2)year(-1) from years 70-170. We found that the concentration of N in freshly deposited sediments could account for most of the soil...