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Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 2496–2505 | Cite as

Establishment of reference conditions for nutrients in an intensive agricultural watershed, Eastern China

  • Jiabo Chen
  • Jun LuEmail author
Research Article

Abstract

Nutrient enrichment from nonpoint source pollution is one of the main causes of poor water quality and biotic impairment in many streams and rivers worldwide. The establishment of reference nutrient conditions in a river system is an essential but difficult task for water quality control. In the present study, the reference concentrations of total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) were estimated in an intensive agricultural watershed, the Cao-E River system of Eastern China. Based on a 3-year water quality monitoring data in the river system, three approaches were adopted to establish the reference concentrations of TN and TP, those are the 75th percentile of frequency distribution of nutrient concentrations in reference streams, the 25th percentile of frequency distribution of nutrient concentration in general streams (including reference and non-reference streams) and regression modeling. Results showed that the nutrient reference concentrations were slightly different from different approaches. By the three approaches, the average reference concentrations for TN and TP in the study system were 1.73 ± 0.13 mg l−1 and 55.23 ± 4.77 μg l−1 with CV of 7.39 % and 8.63 %, respectively. Accordingly, the reference concentrations for TN and TP were recommended to be 1.70 mg l−1 and 55 μg l−1, respectively. In the mountainous and intensive agricultural watershed, the major anthropogenic impacts to river water quality were the urban area percentage cover, cropland area with slopes 0–8°, and livestock and poultry waste loads density. These variables could account for 89.7 % and 80.3 % of the total variations for TN and TP concentration, respectively.

Keywords

Reference condition of nutrient River system Total nitrogen Total phosphorus Frequency distribution of monitoring index Water quality 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 40871104) and Chinese National Key Technology R&D Program (Grant No. 2012BAC17B01). We thank Doctor Genxin Song and Doctor Bao She of Institution of Remote Sensing and Information System Application, Zhejiang University for assisting with remote sensing images interpretation and some geographic information system data generation.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources, College of Environment and Natural ResourcesZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina
  2. 2.China Ministry of Education Key Lab of Environment Remediation and Ecological HealthZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

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