Environmental Earth Sciences, 2013, Vol.69(2), pp.381-393
In this study near-continuous time series of nitrate, electrical conductivity, and discharge were used to identify the dominating hydrological mechanisms that control nitrate export dynamics in two agricultural catchments. The main goal was to assess relationships between contrasting event based as well as long-term nitrate transport behaviour and catchment hydrology. Data records were obtained from online probes that allow field based high-frequency analyses over long time periods. The catchments of the Ammer River (southwestern Germany) and the Weida River (eastern Germany) are similar with respect to size (~100 km²), morphology, and climate and are dominated by agricultural use. Main differences are the stronger urbanization and the occurrence of karstic rocks in the Ammer catchment. Nitrate concentrations are high in water of both streams and range mostly between 20 and 50 mg l −1 . Nitrate export in the Ammer catchment is dominated by baseflow and a minor second, diluting runoff component generated in urbanized areas. In contrast, nitrate dynamics of the Weida catchment is governed by the interplay of at least three runoff components, while the largest amount of nitrate is mobilized intermittently by a delayed fast component generated in the catchment’s soils during wet conditions. These interpretations, derived with one online probe at the outlet of each catchment, are well in line with the former modeling results. This study shows that high-resolution data obtained by online techniques offers a large potential to improve the conceptualization of dominating flow and transport processes at catchment scales at relatively low costs and effort.
Nitrate export ; Catchment ; Hydrology ; High-frequency monitoring ; Online probe
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