A combined geochemical and hydrological approach for understanding macronutrient sources

Lapworth, Dan J. ORCID:; Gooddy, Daren C.; Kent, Flo; Heaton, Tim H.E.; Cole, Steven J.; Allen, Debbie. 2013 A combined geochemical and hydrological approach for understanding macronutrient sources. Journal of Hydrology, 500. 226-242.

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This study employed complementary geochemical techniques and distributed hydrological modelling to investigate multiple sources of catchment macronutrients and characterise their changes in contrasting storm and baseflow conditions. This approach was demonstrated for the Beult catchment in the county of Kent (England), a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) indentified as failing to meet water quality standards for key nutrients under the Water Framework Directive. Significant changes in nutrient stoichiometry and bioavailability are observed for surface waters under contrasting flow regimes. Soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) concentrations are approximately twice as high during baseflow compared to high flow, while the inverse is true for particulate, colloidal and dissolved hydrolysable phosphorus, dissolved organic carbon and nitrate. Nitrogen (N):phosphorus (P) ratios are lower during baseflow for most surface waters impacted by diffuse sources of pollution. Fluorescence indices of dissolved organic matter (DOM) show that waste water inputs may be locally important sources of more complex low molecular weight DOM, particularly during baseflow. Nitrate N and O isotope signatures, combined with other dissolved chemical tracers, confirm the dominance of wastewater N inputs at sites downsteam of sewerage treatment works during baseflow, with a shift towards the soil N pool in surface waters across the catchment during high flow. Distributed hydrological modelling using the Grid-to-Grid model reveal areas with the greatest runoff also export higher N and P concentrations, and hence deliver a greater flux of macronutrients, while forested areas with low nutrient concentrations reduce runoff and nutrient fluxes. During periods of high runoff, nested sampling indicates that nutrient fluxes scale with catchment area. This combined approach enables a more thorough assessment of the macronutrient sources and dynamics, better informing management options in nutrient impacted catchments.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Reynard
ISSN: 0022-1694
Date made live: 06 Sep 2013 09:01 +0 (UTC)

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