Biogeochemistry

, Volume 104, Issue 1–3, pp 293–308 | Cite as

Storm nitrogen dynamics in tile-drain flow in the US Midwest

Article

Abstract

Storm losses of N via tile-drainage in the US Midwest are a major concern for water quality in the Mississippi River Basin (MRB). This study investigates the impact of precipitation characteristics on NO3, NH4+ and DON concentrations and fluxes for spring storms in tile-drains in a Midwestern agricultural watershed. Bulk precipitation amount had little impact on solute median concentrations in tile-drains during storms, but clearly impacted Mg2+, K+ and NO3 concentration patterns. For large storms (>6 cm of bulk precipitation), large amounts of macropore flow (43–50% of total tile-drain flow) diluted Mg2+ and NO3 rich groundwater as discharge peaked. This pattern was not observed for NH4+ and DON or for smaller tile-flow generating events (<3 cm) during which macropore flow contributions were limited (11–17% of total tile-drain flow). Precipitation amount was positively (P < 0.01) correlated to NO3 and NH4+ export rates, but not to DON export rates. Limited variations in antecedent water table depth in spring had little influence on N dynamics for the storms studied. Although significant differences in flow characteristics were observed between tile-drains, solute concentration dynamics and macropore flow contributions to total tile-drain flow were similar for adjacent tile-drains. Generally, NO3 represented >80% of N flux during storms, while DON and NH4+ represented only 2–14% and 1–7% of N flux, respectively. This study stresses the non-linear behavior of N losses to tile drains during spring storms in artificially drained landscapes of the US Midwest, at a critical time of the year for N management in the MRB.

Keywords

Tile drainage Nitrate Ammonium Dissolved organic nitrogen Precipitation characteristics Export rates 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesIndiana University-Purdue University, IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA

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