Analysis of Consecutive Events for Nutrient and Sediment Treatment in Field-Monitored Bioretention Cells

  • Robert A. Brown
  • Francois Birgand
  • William F. Hunt


Previous research demonstrated that nutrient treatment in conventionally drained bioretention cells is dependent upon temperature and varying wetting and drying regimes in the media. This study examines the influence that previous events have on outflow concentrations by analyzing flow-weighted composite samples from four to six consecutive events during three different seasons for two sets of field-monitored bioretention cells in Nashville, NC. The bioretention cells had different media depths (0.6-m versus 0.9-m). As a means to analyze performance from consecutive events, the evolution of cumulative pollutant loads was presented by plotting cumulative load versus cumulative volume. This method of presenting water quality data allows for the direct analysis of event mean concentrations, load reduction, and volume reduction with one graph, as well as describing the seasonal impacts and impacts from consecutive events. Runoff and outflow concentrations were also correlated to media temperature and rainfall characteristics. The overall results of this study showed that conventionally drained bioretention cells mainly convert organic nitrogen, the predominant source of nitrogen in runoff, into nitrate in the aerobic environment present in the media. Nitrate is then exported from the media during subsequent events. The greatest export occurred during the warmer months because higher media temperatures increased microbial activity. Pollen and leaf litter were identified as organic nitrogen and total phosphorus sources because of elevated runoff concentrations that occurred in the spring and autumn. Based on these results, future bioretention studies should strongly consider monitoring consecutive events and this method of data analysis, as they reveal internal processes and allow researchers to draw conclusions that independent event monitoring could not.


Bioretention Stormwater Nutrients Nitrogen Phosphorus Water quality sampling 



The authors would like to acknowledge NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) and the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET) for funding this project. Also, thanks to Aziz Amoozegar, Greg Jennings, and Wayne Skaggs for their input; Jenny James and Linda Mackenzie for water quality sample analyses; Shawn Kennedy for assistance in setting up the site and installing monitoring equipment; and Bill Lord, Mitch Woodward, Dan Line, Cole Ammons, Trisha Moore, and Fred Ammons for the labor involved in repairing the bioretention cells.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert A. Brown
    • 1
  • Francois Birgand
    • 1
  • William F. Hunt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological and Agricultural EngineeringNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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