Controls on nutrient transport in cold, low-relief agricultural regions vary dramatically among seasons. The spring snowmelt is often the dominant runoff and nutrient loading event of the year. However, climate change may increase the proportion of runoff occurring with rainfall, and there is an urgent need to understand seasonal controls on nutrient transport to understand how patterns may change in the future. In this study, we assess patterns and drivers of total P (TP) dynamics in eight streams draining agriculturally dominated watersheds, located in southern Manitoba, Canada. Data from three years of monitoring revealed highly coherent patterns of TP concentrations in streams, with pronounced peaks in the spring and midsummer across the region. This coherent pattern was in spite of considerable interannual variability in the magnitude and timing of discharge; in particular, a major storm event occurred in summer 2014, which resulted in more discharge than the preceding spring melt. Concentration-discharge model fits were generally poor or not significant, suggesting that runoff generation is not the primary driver of TP dynamics in the majority of streams. Seasonal patterns of conductivity and stream temperature suggest that mechanisms controlling TP vary by season; a spring TP concentration maximum may be related to surface runoff over frozen soils, whereas the summer TP maximum may be related to temperature-driven biogeochemical processes, which are not well represented in current conceptual or predictive models. These findings suggest that controls on stream TP concentrations are dynamic through the year, and responses to increases in dormant and nondormant season temperatures may depend on seasonally variable processes.
In the northern Great Plains, most runoff transport of N, and P to surface waters has historically occurred with snowmelt. In recent years, significant rainfall runoff events have become more frequent and intense in the region. Here, we examine the influence of landscape characteristics on hydrology and nutrient export in nine tributary watersheds of the Assiniboine River in Manitoba, Canada, during snowmelt runoff and with an early summer extreme rainfall runoff event (ERRE). All watersheds included in the study have land use that is primarily agricultural, but with differing proportions of land remaining as wetlands, grassland, and that has been artificially drained. Those watersheds with greater capacity for storage of water in surface depressions (noneffective contributing areas) exhibited lower rates of runoff and nutrient export with snowmelt. During the ERRE, higher export of total P (TP), but not total N, was observed from those watersheds with larger amounts of contributing area that had been added through artificial surface drainage, and this was associated primarily with higher TP concentrations. Increasing or restoring the storage of water on the landscape is likely to reduce nutrient export; however, the importance of antecedent conditions was evident during the ERRE, when small surface depressions were at or near capacity from snowmelt. Total P concentrations observed during the summer ERRE were as high as those observed with snowmelt, and N/P ratios were significantly lower. If the frequency of summer ERREs increases with climate change, this is likely to result in negative water quality outcomes.
The effect of freeze-thaw cycles on phosphorus release from riparian macrophytes in cold regions
Colin J. Whitfield,
Nora J. Casson,
Rebecca L. North,
Jason J. Venkiteswaran,
Helen M. Baulch
Canadian Water Resources Journal / Revue canadienne des ressources hydriques, Volume 44, Issue 2
Storage and removal of nutrients by wetlands and riparian areas is an important process in understanding catchment nutrient fluxes and in helping to mitigate current issues of eutrophication in man...