The Hillslope Hydrology of a Mountain Pasture: The Influence of Subsurface Flow on Nitrate and Ammonium Transport
Zegre, Nicolas P.
MetadataShow full item record
Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution is possibly the greatest form of contamination to our nation's waters. Nutrient pollutants, such as nitrate and ammonium, often enter aquatic ecosystems through surface and subsurface hydrological transport that drain agricultural watersheds. The over-abundance of nitrogen within these watersheds is easily transported to receiving stream and rivers, and result in aquatic ecosystem degradation. In response to the problem of nutrient loading to aquatic ecosystems, ecosystems scientists and federal and state governments have recommended the use of streamside management zones (SMZ) to reduce the amount of NPS pollutants. A small agricultural watershed in southwestern North Carolina was utilized to quantify subsurface transport of nitrate and ammonium to a naturally developing riparian area along Cartoogechaye Creek. Vertical and lateral transport of nitrate and ammonium were measured along three transect perpendicular to the stream. Transects were instrumented with time domain reflectometry (TDR) and porous cup tension lysimeters to monitor soil water and nutrient flux through the pasture and riparian area located at the base of the watershed. The HYDRUS 2-D flow and transport model was used to predict and simulate subsurface flow. Predicted flow was coupled with observed field nutrient data to quantify nutrient flux as a function of slope location. HYDRUS 2-D was capable of simulating subsurface flow (saturated and unsaturated) as a function of observed soil physical properties (bulk density, saturated hydraulic conductivity, particle size distribution, water retention characteristics) and climatic data (precipitation, air temperature, wind speed, etc.). The riparian area was effective in reducing the amount of nonpoint source pollution to a naturally developing riparian area from an agricultural watershed. Dramatic decreases in both NO3- -N and NH4+ -N in upland pasture water were observed within the riparian area. Seasonal percent reductions of NO3- from the pasture to riparian area in subsurface water within the study watershed are as follows: summer (2002) = 456%; fall (2002) = 116%; winter (2003) = 29%; spring = 9%, pasture and riparian, respectively.
- Masters Theses