, Volume 142, Issue 2, pp 247–264 | Cite as

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

  • Jiajia LinEmail author
  • Jana E. Compton
  • Scott G. Leibowitz
  • George Mueller-Warrant
  • William Matthews
  • Stephen H. Schoenholtz
  • Daniel M. Evans
  • Rob A. Coulombe


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 (r2 = 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 



We thank numerous farmers and other private landowners for access to streams in the lower watershed, and Robert Danehy of Weyerhaeuser Corporation for gaining access to streams on their lands in the upper watershed. Donald Streeter and Machelle Nelson, both formerly of USDA-ARS, conducted lab and field work, and Randy Comeleo of US EPA WED assisted with the spatial dataset. We also thank Blake Hatteberg, Lindsey Webb, David Beugli, Howard Bruner, and Marj Storm of CSS-Dynamac for stream sampling and data collection in the Calapooia. We thank Ryan Hill for providing support with spatial analysis using R and ArcGIS. Kara Goodwin, Jackie Brenner, and Phil Caruso provided GIS method development early in the project. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Supplementary material

10533_2018_532_MOESM1_ESM.docx (38 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 38 kb)


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Research Council, National Academy of SciencesCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Western Ecology DivisionUS EPACorvallisUSA
  3. 3.USDA ARS, National Forage Seed Production Research CenterCorvallisUSA
  4. 4.Oregon Department of Agriculture, Confined Animal Feeding OperationsSalemUSA
  5. 5.Virginia Water Resources Research CenterBlacksburgUSA
  6. 6.Center for the EnvironmentPlymouth State UniversityPlymouthUSA
  7. 7.CSSCorvallisUSA

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