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Disentangling the Impact of Catchment Heterogeneity on Nitrate Export Dynamics From Event to Long-Term Time Scales

Title data

Winter, Carolin ; Lutz, Stefanie R. ; Musolff, Andreas ; Kumar, Rohini ; Weber, Michael ; Fleckenstein, Jan:
Disentangling the Impact of Catchment Heterogeneity on Nitrate Export Dynamics From Event to Long-Term Time Scales.
In: Water Resources Research. Vol. 57 (2021) Issue 1 . - e2020WR027992.
ISSN 1944-7973

Abstract in another language

Abstract Defining effective measures to reduce nitrate pollution in heterogeneous mesoscale catchments remains challenging when based on concentration measurements at the outlet only. One reason for this is our limited understanding of the subcatchment contributions to nitrate export and their importance at different time scales. While upstream subcatchments often disproportionally contribute to runoff generation and in turn to nutrient export, agricultural areas (which are typically found in downstream lowlands) are known to be a major source of nitrate pollution. To examine the interplay of different subcatchments, we analyzed seasonal long-term trends and event dynamics of nitrate concentrations, loads, and the concentration–discharge relationship in three nested catchments within the Selke catchment (456 km2), Germany. The upstream subcatchments (40.4% of total catchment area, 34.5% of N input) had short transit times and dynamic concentration–discharge relationships with elevated nitrate concentrations during wet seasons and events. Consequently, the upstream subcatchments dominated nitrate export during high flow and disproportionally contributed to overall annual nitrate loads at the outlet (64.2%). The downstream subcatchment was characterized by higher N input, longer transit times, and relatively constant nitrate concentrations between seasons, dominating nitrate export during low-flow periods. Neglecting the disproportional role of upstream subcatchments for temporally elevated nitrate concentrations and net annual loads can lead to an overestimation of the role of agricultural lowlands. Nonetheless, constantly high concentrations from nitrate legacies pose a long-term threat to water quality in agricultural lowlands. This knowledge is crucial for an effective and site-specific water quality management.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: concentration–discharge relationships; event dynamics; long-term trends; nitrate; nutrient export; water quality
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Former Professors > Professor Hydrological Modelling - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Jan Fleckenstein
Research Institutions > Research Centres > Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research- BayCEER
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 500 Science > 550 Earth sciences, geology
Date Deposited: 15 May 2023 07:08
Last Modified: 15 May 2023 07:08