Water quality variation along streams with similar agricultural development but contrasting riparian vegetation

Connolly, N.M., Pearson, R.G., Loong, D., Maughan, M., and Brodie, J. (2015) Water quality variation along streams with similar agricultural development but contrasting riparian vegetation. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 213. pp. 11-20.

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We measured water quality along four Australian tropical streams in two catchments with similar agricultural development (mainly sugarcane growing) but contrasting riparian vegetation (intact native rainforest vs. exotic weeds). There were strong gradients in water quality and consistent differences between streams. The most significant pattern was an increase in nitrate + nitrite (NO(x)) concentration with distance downstream, reflecting the increasing discharge and proportion of fertilized agricultural land in the catchment, and indicating continuous export of contaminated groundwater along all streams. Measuring water quality along the longitudinal gradient was critical to the interpretation of the data and enabled us to confidently detect differences between streams. NO(x) concentrations and loads were significantly lower in streams with greater riparian vegetation and regression analysis suggested some N-stripping in the riparian zone, albeit insufficient to meet regional water-quality guidelines. Our results demonstrate the benefit of accounting for longitudinal gradients in comparing water quality among streams and in detecting the effect of riparian vegetation at a catchment scale, but that adequate reduction in NO(x) in streams can only be achieved by reduced fertilizer application rates in the catchments.

Item ID: 40752
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-2305
Keywords: nutrient, nitrate, stream, pollution, groundwater, tropic
Funders: Australian Government’s Catchment to Reef program
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2015 01:35
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050206 Environmental Monitoring @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 100%
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