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Long-term decreases in phosphorus and suspended solids, but not nitrogen, in six upper Mississippi River tributaries, 1991–2014

  • Rebecca M. Kreiling
  • Jeffrey N. Houser
Article

Abstract

Long-term trends in tributaries provide valuable information about temporal changes in inputs of nutrients and sediments to large rivers. Data collected from 1991 to 2014 were used to investigate trends in total nitrogen (TN), total phosphorus (TP), nitrate (NO3–N), soluble-reactive P (SRP), and total suspended solids (TSS) in the following six tributaries of the upper Mississippi River: Cannon (CaR; Minnesota (MN)), Maquoketa (MR; Iowa (IA)), Wapsipinicon (WR; IA), Cuivre (CuR; Missouri (MO)), Chippewa (ChR; Wisconsin (WI)), and Black (BR; WI) rivers. Weighted regression on time discharge and season was used to statistically remove effects of random variation in discharge from estimated trends in flow-normalized concentrations and flux. Concentration and flux of TSS declined in all six rivers. Concentration of P declined in four of the rivers, and P flux declined in five rivers. Concentration and flux of N exhibited small changes relative to TP. TN concentration and flux did not change substantially in four of the rivers and decreased in two (ChR, CuR). Nitrate concentration and flux increased in three rivers (ChR, BR, CaR) and remained relatively constant in the other three rivers. General declines in P and TSS suggest that improvements in agricultural land management, such as the adoption of conservation tillage and enrollment of vulnerable acreage into the Conservation Reserve Program, may have reduced surface runoff; similar reductions in N were not observed.

Keywords

Upper Mississippi River Nitrogen Phosphorus Total suspended solids 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Data presented here were collected as part of the LTRM element of the UMRR Program which also supported the authors’ work on this manuscript. We thank the staff of the Minnesota DNR Lake City Field Station, the Wisconsin DNR La Crosse Field Station, the IA DNR Bellevue Field Station, and the Illinois Natural History Survey field station located at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center for their extraordinary efforts in sample and data collection. JC Nelson provided graphical and GIS assistance, and other staff at the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center processed samples and provided data management support. Lori Sprague generously provided initial guidance regarding the use of WRTDS and a review of an early draft manuscript. This manuscript was also improved by reviews from John Barko, Barry Johnson, and two anonymous reviewers. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsements by the US Government.

Supplementary material

10661_2016_5464_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2.9 mb)
ESM 1 Additional details on the sampling schedule throughout the period of study, the Maquoketa River TSS analysis, and the effects of discharge on concentrations through time can be found in the supplemental online resource. (DOC 2934 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.US Geological Survey, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences CenterLa CrosseUSA

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