5 years ago

Spatiotemporal patterns and source attribution of nitrogen pollution in a typical headwater agricultural watershed in Southeastern China

Daniel Nover, Kaiyan Zhao, Chuan Luo, Wen Chen, Wenjun Chen, Weili Duan, Bin He


Excessive nitrogen (N) discharge from agriculture causes widespread problems in aquatic ecosystems. Knowledge of spatiotemporal patterns and source attribution of N pollution is critical for nutrient management programs but is poorly studied in headwaters with various small water bodies and mini-point pollution sources. Taking a typical small watershed in the low mountains of Southeastern China as an example, N pollution and source attribution were studied for a multipond system around a village using the Hydrological Simulation Program-Fortran (HSPF) model. The results exhibited distinctive spatio-seasonal variations with an overall seriousness rank for the three indicators: total nitrogen (TN) > nitrate/nitrite nitrogen (NOx -N) > ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N), according to the Chinese Surface Water Quality Standard. TN pollution was severe for the entire watershed, while NOx -N pollution was significant for ponds and ditches far from the village, and the NH3-N concentrations were acceptable except for the ponds near the village in summer. Although food and cash crop production accounted for the largest source of N loads, we discovered that mini-point pollution sources, including animal feeding operations, rural residential sewage, and waste, together contributed as high as 47% of the TN and NH3-N loads in ponds and ditches. So, apart from eco-fertilizer programs and concentrated animal feeding operations, the importance of environmental awareness building for resource management is highlighted for small farmers in headwater agricultural watersheds. As a first attempt to incorporate multipond systems into the process-based modeling of nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, this work can inform other hydro-environmental studies on scattered and small water bodies. The results are also useful to water quality improvement for entire river basins.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11356-017-0685-8

DOI: 10.1007/s11356-017-0685-8

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