Seasonality of nitrogen balances in a Mediterranean climate watershed, Oregon, US


We constructed a seasonal nitrogen (N) budget for the year 2008 in the Calapooia River Watershed (CRW), an agriculturally dominated tributary of the Willamette River (Oregon, U.S.) under Mediterranean climate. Synthetic fertilizer application to agricultural land (dominated by grass seed crops) was the source of 90% of total N input to the CRW. Over 70% of the stream N export occurred during the wet winter, the primary time of fertilization and precipitation, and the lowest export occurred in the dry summer. Averaging across all 58 tributary subwatersheds, 19% of annual N inputs were exported by streams, and 41% by crop harvest. Regression analysis of seasonal stream export showed that winter fertilization was associated with 60% of the spatial variation in winter stream export, and this fertilizer continued to affect N export in later seasons. Annual N inputs were highly correlated with crop harvest N (r(2)=0.98), however, seasonal dynamics in N inputs and losses produced relatively low overall nitrogen use efficiency (41%), suggesting that hydrologic factors may constrain improvements in nutrient management. The peak stream N export during fall and early winter creates challenges to reducing N losses to groundwater and surface waters. Construction of a seasonal N budget illustrated that the period of greatest N loss is disconnected from the period of greatest crop N uptake. Management practices that serve to reduce the N remaining in the system at the end of the growing season and prior to the fall and winter rains should be explored to reduce stream N export.



Agriculture, GIS, Nutrient use efficiency, Grass seed crops, Seasonal analysis, Water quality, Nitrogen