Environmental Management

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 336–350 | Cite as

Influences of Spatial Scale and Soil Permeability on Relationships Between Land Cover and Baseflow Stream Nutrient Concentrations

  • F. Bernard Daniel
  • Michael B. Griffith
  • Michael E. Troyer


The Little Miami River (LMR) basin, dominated by agriculture, contains two geologically-distinct regions; a glaciated northern till plain with soils three times more permeable than a southern, pre-Wisconsinan drift plain. The influences of two landscape measures, percent row crop cover (%RCC, computed at three spatial scales), and soil permeability (PERM), on baseflow nutrient concentrations were modeled using linear regressions. Quarterly water samples collected for four years were analyzed for nitrate-N (NN), Kjeldahl-N (KN), total-N (TN), and total-P (TP). In till plain streams (n = 17), NN concentrations were 8.5-times greater than drift plain streams (n = 18), but KN and TP were 20–40% lower at comparable %RCC. These differences resulted in TN/TP molar ratios >80 in till plain streams, but <6 in drift plain streams. For till plain steams regression models based on %RCC accounted for 79% of the variance in NN concentrations but only 27% in drift plain streams. However, regressions on %RCC accounted for 68–75% of the KN and TP concentration variance in the drift plain streams but essentially none in the till plain. Catchment PERM influenced the regional NN/KN ratios which were 10-fold higher in the drift plain streams. For both till and drift streams the catchment scale %RCC gave the best predictions of NN, a water soluble anion, but the smaller spatial scales produced better models for insoluble nutrient species (e.g., KN and TP). Published literature on Ohio streams indicates that these inter-regional differences in nutrient ratios have potential implications for aquatic biota in the receiving streams.


Land cover Row crop Spatial scale Non-point source Nutrients Soil permeability Water quality Aquatic biotic integrity 



The United States Environmental Protection Agency through its Office of Research and Development funded and managed the research described here. It has been subjected to Agency review and approved for publication. Two anonymous reviewers provided critiques that greatly improved the paper. Finally, we thank Justicia Rhodus, Environmental Science Editor with Dynamac Corporation, for document editing and formatting.


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Copyright information

© U.S. Government 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Bernard Daniel
    • 1
  • Michael B. Griffith
    • 2
  • Michael E. Troyer
    • 2
  1. 1.National Exposure Research Laboratory, Office of Research and DevelopmentU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and DevelopmentU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyCincinnatiUSA

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