Springs drive downstream nitrate export from artificially-drained agricultural headwater catchments.

08:00 EDT 21st March 2019 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "Springs drive downstream nitrate export from artificially-drained agricultural headwater catchments."

Excessive nutrient loading from small agricultural headwaters can substantially degrade downstream water quality and ecological conditions. But, our understanding of the scales and locations to implement nutrient attenuation tools within these catchments is poor. To help inform farm- and catchment-scale management, we quantified nitrate export in nine one-kilometre-long lowland agricultural headwaters fed by tile and open tributary drains in a region with high groundwater nitrate (<1 to >15 mg L NO-N) over four years. Across-catchment differences in upstream spring water nitrate concentrations predicted differences in annual nitrate loads at catchment outlets (range <1-72 megagrams NO-N 365 d), and nitrate loads were higher in wet seasons and wet years, reflecting strong groundwater influences. Partitioning the sources of variability in catchment nitrate fluxes revealed that ~60% of variation was accounted for by a combination of fluxes from up-stream springs and contributions from tile and open tributary drains (46% and 15%, respectively), with ~40% of unexplained residual variation likely due to groundwater upwellings. Although tile and open tributary drains contributed comparatively less to catchment loads (tile drains: <0.01 and up to 50 kg NO-N d; open drains: <5 kg and up to 100 kg NO-N d), mitigation targeted at these localised, farm-scale sources will contribute to decreasing downstream nitrate fluxes. However, high nitrate loads from groundwater mean current NO-N waterway management and rehabilitation practices targeting waterway stock exclusion by fencing alone will be insufficient to reduce annual NO-N export. Moreover, managing catchment nutrient fluxes will need to acknowledge contributions from groundwater as well as farm-scale losses from land. Overall, our results highlight how nutrient fluxes in spring-fed waterways can be highly dynamic, dominated more by groundwater than local run-off, and point to the scales and locations where nitrate attenuation tools should be implemented.


Journal Details

This article was published in the following journal.

Name: The Science of the total environment
ISSN: 1879-1026
Pages: 119-128


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Medical and Biotech [MESH] Definitions

An NAD-dependent enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of nitrite to nitrate. It is a FLAVOPROTEIN that contains IRON and MOLYBDENUM and is involved in the first step of nitrate assimilation in PLANTS; FUNGI; and BACTERIA. It was formerly classified as EC

An iron-sulfur and MOLYBDENUM containing FLAVOPROTEIN that catalyzes the oxidation of nitrite to nitrate. This enzyme can use either NAD or NADP as cofactors. It is a key enzyme that is involved in the first step of nitrate assimilation in PLANTS; FUNGI; and BACTERIA. This enzyme was formerly classified as EC

An enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of nitrite to nitrate in the presence of NADP+. It is a FLAVOPROTEIN that contains IRON and MOLYBDENUM. This enzyme was formerly classified as EC and should not be confused with the enzyme NITRATE REDUCTASE (NAD(P)H).

An enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of nitrite to nitrate. It is a cytochrome protein that contains IRON and MOLYBDENUM.

Habitat of hot water naturally heated by underlying geologic processes. Surface hot springs have been used for BALNEOLOGY.

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