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Nutrient Budget in the Seasonal Wetland of the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Abstract

The nutrient (P and N species) and chloride budgets were investigated in a representative floodplain in the seasonal wetlands of the Okavango Delta, Botswana. A variety of sources of nutrients in the surface water were considered, namely ion species coming with the floodwater, those generated from dry floodplain soils and those from water-soluble dust deposition (both local and long-range sources). Concentrations of total-nitrogen and chloride in surface water were below 1 mg l−1. Total-phosphorus concentrations were 0.05 mg l−1, reflecting the oligotrophic character of the system. Dust deposition rates were highest for chloride at 2.44 g m−2 year−1 followed by 0.79 g m−2 year−1 for total-N, 0.40 g m−2 year−1 for ammonia and only 0.02 g m−2 year−1 for total-P, respectively. Chloride was derived primarily from long-range transport, while N and P species were of more local origin. Dissolution rates for these ions combined were calculated to be 3.9 g m−2 for the flooded area in the 1999 season and thus all dry deposits must be re-dissolved. The accumulation of dust deposits on dry surfaces and their subsequent dissolution causes 2–5 times higher concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus and chloride with the onset of the flood, thus boosting the nutrient stock in the crucial phase of the onset of flooding. Chloride dissolved from dry soil surfaces and dust contributed approximately 40% to the overall floodplain budget. Although contributions from the soil surface and dust to the nitrogen and phosphorus pools of the floodplain are less prominent (with 10% of total), they nonetheless represent a significant source of nutrients in the entire system. Extrapolation to annually flooded swamps (10,000 km2) indicates a maximum contribution of 40% for total-nitrogen and 60% for total-phosphorus from dust deposition on wet or dry surfaces to the nutrient pool of the water body.

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Correspondence to Martin Krah.

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Krah, M., McCarthy, T.S., Huntsman-Mapila, P. et al. Nutrient Budget in the Seasonal Wetland of the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Wetlands Ecol Manage 14, 253–267 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11273-005-1115-0

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Keywords

  • Dust deposition
  • Nutrient transport
  • Okavango Delta
  • Soil surface
  • Water chemistry