Abstract Wetlands protect downstream waters by filtering excess nitrogen (N) generated from agricultural and urban activities. Many small ephemeral wetlands, also known as geographically isolated wetlands (GIWs), are hotspots of N retention but have received fewer legal protections due to their apparent isolation from jurisdictional waters. Here, we hypothesize that the isolation of the GIWs make them more efficient N filters, especially when considering transient hydrologic dynamics. We use a reduced complexity model with 30 years of remotely sensed monthly wetland inundation levels in 3700 GIWs across eight wetlandscapes in the US to show how consideration of transient hydrologic dynamics can increase N retention estimates by up to 130%, with greater retention magnification for the smaller wetlands. This effect is more pronounced in semi-arid systems such as the prairies in North Dakota, where transient assumptions lead to 1.8 times more retention, compared to humid landscapes like the North Carolina Pocosins where transient assumptions only lead to 1.4 times more retention. Our results highlight how GIWs have an outsized role in retaining nutrients, and this service is enhanced due to their hydrologic disconnectivity which must be protected to maintain the integrity of downstream waters.
Management strategies aimed at reducing nutrient enrichment of surface waters may be hampered by nutrient legacies that have accumulated in the landscape. Here, we apply the Net Anthropogenic Phosphorus Input (NAPI) model to reconstruct the historical phosphorus (P) input trajectories for the province of Ontario, which encompasses the Canadian portion of the drainage basin of the Laurentian Great Lakes (LGL). NAPI considers P inputs from detergent, human and livestock waste, fertilizer inputs, and P outputs by crop uptake. During the entire time period considered, from 1961 to 2016, Ontario experienced positive annual NAPI values. Despite a generally downward NAPI trend since the late 1970s, the lower LGL, especially Lake Erie, continue to be plagued by algal blooms. When comparing NAPI results and river monitoring data for the period 2003 to 2013, P discharged by Canadian rivers into Lake Erie only accounts for 12.5% of the NAPI supplied to the watersheds' agricultural areas. Thus, over 85% of the agricultural NAPI is retained in the watersheds where it contributes to a growing P legacy, primarily as soil P. The slow release of legacy P therefore represents a long-term risk to the recovery of the lake. To help mitigate this risk, we present a methodology to spatially map out the source areas with the greatest potential of erosional export of legacy soil P to surface waters. These areas should be prioritized in soil conservation efforts.
Great Lakes Runoff Intercomparison Project Phase 3: Lake Erie (GRIP-E)
Bryan A. Tolson,
Helen C. Shen,
Tricia A. Stadnyk,
Lauren M. Fry,
Emily A. Bradley,
André Guy Tranquille Temgoua,
N. B. Basu,
Narayan Kumar Shrestha,
James R. Craig,
Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, Volume 26, Issue 9
AbstractHydrologic model intercomparison studies help to evaluate the agility of models to simulate variables such as streamflow, evaporation, and soil moisture. This study is the third in a sequen...
Increased fluxes of reactive nitrogen (N r ), often associated with N fertilizer use in agriculture, have resulted in negative environmental consequences, including eutrophication, which cost billions of dollars per year globally. To address this, best management practices (BMPs) to reduce N r loading to the environment have been introduced in many locations. However, improvements in water quality associated with BMP implementation have not always been realised over expected timescales. There is a now a significant body of scientific evidence showing that the dynamics of legacy N r storage and associated time lags invalidate the assumptions of many models used by policymakers for decision making regarding N r BMPs. Building on this evidence, we believe that the concepts of legacy N r storage dynamics and time lags need to be included in these models. We believe the biogeochemical research community could play a more proactive role in advocating for this change through both awareness raising and direct collaboration with policymakers to develop improved datasets and models. We anticipate that this will result in more realistic expectations of timescales for water quality improvements associated with BMPs. Given the need for multi-nutrient policy responses to tackle challenges such as eutrophication, integration of N stores will have the further benefit of aligning both researchers and policymakers in the N community with the phosphorus and carbon communities, where estimation of stores is more widespread. Ultimately, we anticipate that integrating legacy N r storage dynamics and time lags into policy frameworks will better meet the needs of human and environmental health. • Nitrogen (N) pollution from agriculture has negative environmental impacts. • Environmental benefits of initiatives to reduce N loads not always detectable. • N storage dynamics and time lag invalidate steady state models often used in policy. • Researchers should advocate for integrating N stores and time lags into policy. • Quantifying N storage aligns with phosphorus and carbon cycling research.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) ubiquitously occur in rivers and threaten the aquatic ecosystem. Understanding their fate and behaviour in rivers can help in improving management strategies. We develop a particle-facilitated transport model considering suspended sediments with sorbed PAH from different origins to investigate the turnover and legacy of sediment-bound PAH in the baseflow-dominated Ammer River in southwest Germany. Our model identifies the contributions of dissolved and particle-bound PAH during wet and dry periods to the annual load. The analysis of in-stream processes enables investigating the average turnover times of sediments and attached PAH for the main stem of the river. The legacy of sediment-bound PAH is studied by running the model assuming a 50% reduction in PAH emissions after the introduction of environmental regulation in the 1970s. Our results show that sediment-bound and dissolved PAH account for 75% and 25% of the annual PAH load, respectively. PAH are mainly emitted from urban areas that contribute over 74% to the total load. In steep reaches, the turnover times of sediments and attached PAH are similar, whereas they differ by 1-2 orders of magnitude in reaches with very mild slopes. Flow rates significantly affect PAH fluxes between the mobile water and the riverbed over the entire river. Total PAH fluxes from the river bed to the mobile water are simulated to occur when the discharge is larger than 5 m3s -1. River segments with large sediment storage show a potential of PAH legacy, which may have caused a PAH release over 10-20 years after the implementation of environmental regulation. This study is useful for assessing environmental impacts of PAH in rivers (e.g., their contribution to the river-water toxicity) and exemplifies that the longitudinal distribution, turnover, and legacy potential of PAH in a river system require a mechanistic understanding of river hydraulics and sediment transport.
Changes in seasonal nutrient dynamics are occurring across a range of climates and land use types. Although it is known that seasonal patterns in nutrient availability are key drivers of both stream metabolism and eutrophication, there has been little success in developing a comprehensive understanding of seasonal variations in nutrient export across watersheds or of the relationship between nutrient seasonality and watershed characteristics. In the present study, we have used concentration and discharge data from more than 200 stations across U.S. and Canadian watersheds to identify (1) archetypal seasonal concentration regimes for nitrate, soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), and total phosphorus, and (2) dominant watershed controls on these regimes across a gradient of climate, land use, and topography. Our analysis shows that less impacted watersheds, with more forested and wetland area, most commonly exhibit concentration regimes that are in phase with discharge, with concentration lows occurring during summer low‐flow periods. Agricultural watersheds also commonly exhibit in‐phase behavior, though the seasonality is usually muted compared to that seen in less impacted areas. With increasing urban area, however, nutrient concentrations frequently become essentially aseasonal or even exhibit clearly out‐of‐phase behavior. In addition, our data indicate that seasonal SRP concentration patterns may be strongly influenced by proximal controls such as the presence of dams and reservoirs. In all, these results suggest that human activity is significantly altering nutrient concentration regimes, with large potential consequences for both in‐stream metabolism and eutrophication risk in downstream waterbodies.
Prairie water: a global water futures project to enhance the resilience of prairie communities through sustainable water management
Jared D. Wolfe,
Colin J. Whitfield,
Helen M. Baulch,
N. B. Basu,
Robert G. Clark,
Christy A. Morrissey,
John W. Pomeroy,
Maureen G. Reed,
Canadian Water Resources Journal / Revue canadienne des ressources hydriques, Volume 44, Issue 2
‘I would walk to the end of the street and out over the prairie with the clickety grasshoppers bunging in arcs ahead of me and I could hear the hum and twang of the wind in the great prairie harp o...
Abstract. Suspended sediments impact stream water quality by increasing the turbidity and acting as a vector for strongly sorbing pollutants. Understanding their sources is of great importance to developing appropriate river management strategies. In this study, we present an integrated sediment transport model composed of a catchment-scale hydrological model to predict river discharge, a river-hydraulics model to obtain shear stresses in the channel, a sediment-generating model, and a river sediment-transport model. We use this framework to investigate the sediment contributions from catchment and in-stream processes in the Ammer catchment close to Tübingen in southwestern Germany. The model is calibrated to stream flow and suspended-sediment concentrations. We use the monthly mean suspended-sediment load to analyze seasonal variations of different processes. The contributions of catchment and in-stream processes to the total loads are demonstrated by model simulations under different flow conditions. The evaluation of shear stresses by the river-hydraulics model allows the identification of hotspots and hot moments of bed erosion for the main stem of the Ammer River. The results suggest that the contributions of suspended-sediment loads from urban areas and in-stream processes are higher in the summer months, while deposition has small variations with a slight increase in summer months. The sediment input from agricultural land and urban areas as well as bed and bank erosion increase with an increase in flow rates. Bed and bank erosion are negligible when flow is smaller than the corresponding thresholds of 1.5 and 2.5 times the mean discharge, respectively. The bed-erosion rate is higher during the summer months and varies along the main stem. Over the simulated time period, net sediment trapping is observed in the Ammer River. The present work is the basis to study particle-facilitated transport of pollutants in the system, helping to understand the fate and transport of sediments and sediment-bound pollutants.
Unprecedented decreases in atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition together with increases in agricultural N-use efficiency have led to decreases in net anthropogenic N inputs in many eastern US and Canadian watersheds as well as in Europe. Despite such decreases, N concentrations in streams and rivers continue to increase, and problems of coastal eutrophication remain acute. Such a mismatch between N inputs and outputs can arise due to legacy N accumulation and subsequent lag times between implementation of conservation measures and improvements in water quality. In the present study, we quantified such lag times by pairing long-term N input trajectories with stream nitrate concentration data for 16 nested subwatersheds in a 6800 km2, Southern Ontario watershed. Our results show significant nonlinearity between N inputs and outputs, with a strong hysteresis effect indicative of decadal-scale lag times. The mean annual lag time was found to be 24.5 years, with lags varying seasonally, likely due to differences in N-delivery pathways. Lag times were found to be negatively correlated with both tile drainage and watershed slope, with tile drainage being a dominant control in fall and watershed slope being significant during the spring snowmelt period. Quantification of such lags will be crucial to policy-makers as they struggle to set appropriate goals for water quality improvement in human-impacted watersheds.