Nitrogen and phosphorus fluxes from watersheds of the northeast U.S. from 1930 to 2000: Role of anthropogenic nutrient inputs, infrastructure, and runoff

Rebecca L. Hale, Nancy Grimm, Charles J. Vörösmarty, Balazs Fekete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

An ongoing challenge for society is to harness the benefits of nutrients, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), while minimizing their negative effects on ecosystems. While there is a good understanding of the mechanisms of nutrient delivery at small scales, it is unknown how nutrient transport and processing scale up to larger watersheds and whole regions over long time periods. We used a model that incorporates nutrient inputs to watersheds, hydrology, and infrastructure (sewers, wastewater treatment plants, and reservoirs) to reconstruct historic nutrient yields for the northeastern U.S. from 1930 to 2002. Over the study period, yields of nutrients increased significantly from some watersheds and decreased in others. As a result, at the regional scale, the total yield of N and P from the region did not change significantly. Temporal variation in regional N and P yields was correlated with runoff coefficient, but not with nutrient inputs. Spatial patterns of N and P yields were best predicted by nutrient inputs, but the correlation between inputs and yields across watersheds decreased over the study period. The effect of infrastructure on yields was minimal relative to the importance of soils and rivers. However, infrastructure appeared to alter the relationships between inputs and yields. The role of infrastructure changed over time and was important in creating spatial and temporal heterogeneity in nutrient input-yield relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-356
Number of pages16
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Volume29
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

Keywords

  • nitrogen
  • phosphorus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Nitrogen and phosphorus fluxes from watersheds of the northeast U.S. from 1930 to 2000: Role of anthropogenic nutrient inputs, infrastructure, and runoff'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this