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Internal Phosphorus Storage in Two Headwater Agricultural Streams in the Lake Erie Basin

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posted on 2019-12-11, 11:48 authored by Nadia N. Casillas-Ituarte, Audrey H. Sawyer, Kelsey M. Danner, Kevin W. King, Alexandra J. Covault
Internal phosphorus (P) in sediments plays an important role in the nutrient dynamics of lakes, sometimes long after external loads have been reduced. Similarly, internal P sources may drive the nutrient dynamics of small agricultural streams that drain to larger rivers and lakes, despite best management practices intended to reduce external P loads from adjacent fields. Here, internal P concentrations were measured with sequential extraction on cores collected in spring and summer from two small agricultural streams in the drainage basin of Lake Erie, a large, eutrophic lake experiencing increasing SRP loads. Average total extractable P concentrations were similar to within 5% during spring and summer, but mobile P binding fractions nearly doubled in summer, possibly due to accelerated rates of organic matter mineralization or iron reduction beneath suboxic, stagnant surface waters. One site had chronically greater internal P concentrations by 25–75%, despite the implementation of best management practices such as grass buffers. The site also had more aquatic vegetation that restricted the flow, less dissolved oxygen in surface water, and greater organic matter in sediments during both seasons, suggesting that variations in hydrology, sediment composition, and vegetation influence hot spots of P retention throughout small agricultural streams.

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