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Nutrient And Particulate Inputs Into The Mar Menor Lagoon (Se Spain) From An Intensive Agricultural Watershed

Abstract

The Mar Menor is a Mediterranean coastal lagoon of high conservation interest, but highly threatened by non-point pollution derived from agricultural lands. This is the first comprehensive study that evaluates the inputs into the Mar Menor from a drainage channel and the Albujón wadi, the main watercourse, and their influence on the trophic state of the lagoon. Discharge variation during the study period was closely related to the precipitation pattern. Suspended sediments and particulate organic matter loads greatly increased with flash floods. Nitrate concentrations, too, increased after heavy autumn rains through washing of the nitrates accumulated in soils, although no significant correlations were found between nitrate concentrations and precipitation or discharge. The nitrate load depended on several factors including the intensity and frequency of precipitation, and the nitrates accumulated in soils as a result of fertilisation. Phosphate concentrations decreased with higher flows. The total input into the lagoon from the two discharges estimated for the period September 2002–October 2003 were 10,142 t.yr−1of suspended sediments, 389 t.yr−1 of particulate organic matter, 2,010 t.yr−1 of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (93 % as NO 3) and 178 t.yr−1 of soluble reactive phosphorus. The Albujón wadi exported about 80% of the N load and 70% of the P load. Higher flows contributed approximately 80% of the total discharge and nutrient loads, 99% of suspended sediment and 88% of the particulate organic matter. Mean suspended solids and nutrient concentrations in the lagoon followed a spatial pattern, decreasing with distance from the mouth of the Albujón wadi. Water nitrate and phosphate concentrations in the Mar Menor lagoon were lower than reference limits for eutrophic conditions, except after heavy rains. Nutrient concentrations were positively correlated with precipitation variables and particulate and nutrient inputs. Phosphorus was the most limiting nutrient in the Mar Menor, the DIN:SRP ratios found being higher than the Redfield ratio on all sampling dates. Phytoplankton bloom in the lagoon was only found next to the Albujón mouth during late summer and extending 5000 m into the lagoon in autumn as a consequence of large freshwater discharge caused by flash floods. Around 53.6% of the variation in chlorophyll a in the lagoon was explained by the NH4 and NO3 inputs and distance from the Albujón mouth. A good deal of P input into the lagoon is retained in the sediments, supporting a high biomass of the benthic macroalga Caulerpa prolifera in spring and summer.

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Correspondence to J. Velasco.

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Velasco, J., Lloret, J., Millan, A. et al. Nutrient And Particulate Inputs Into The Mar Menor Lagoon (Se Spain) From An Intensive Agricultural Watershed. Water Air Soil Pollut 176, 37–56 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-006-2859-8

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Keywords

  • agriculture
  • eutrophication
  • drainage
  • flashflood
  • nitrate
  • nonpoint source pollution
  • Mar Menor lagoon