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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Findings from the USDA-sponsored Lake Erie Agricultural Systems for Environmental Quality Project

Climatic and Agricultural Factors in Nutrient Exports from Two Watersheds in Ohio


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 31 No. 1, p. 72-83
    Received: Aug 12, 2000

    * Corresponding author(s): dbm3@po.cwru.edu
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  1. Douglas B. Moog * and
  2. Peter J. Whiting
  1. Department of Geological Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106-7216


Export of agricultural nutrients and sediment to lakes and oceans is of great environmental concern in many agricultural watersheds. Recent years have seen efforts to reduce loads through agricultural practices such as conservation tillage, efficient fertilization, and reservation of erodible areas. Monitoring the efficacy of such efforts is complicated by the fact they take place against a varying climatic and hydrologic background. In this study, statistical analysis was used to identify those climatic, hydrologic, and agricultural variables that best explained variations in nitrate, phosphorus, and total suspended solids over the period 1976–1995 in two large agricultural watersheds that feed Lake Erie, those of the Maumee and Sandusky Rivers. The dominant variable was stream discharge; after curvefits to remove its influence, the residual loads were tested via stepwise linear regression to reveal the most significant explanatory variables. Loads of nitrate, total suspended solids, and total phosphorus tended to decrease when previous months were wet, except in the summer, and to decrease when snow cover was extensive. It is speculated that stores of nitrate in the soil were lost during wet periods through increased crop uptake and/or leaching. Nitrogen fertilizer application in the Maumee watershed decreased following dry periods, but not enough to decrease stream loads. Soluble reactive phosphorus loads were negatively correlated to conservation tillage and reserves, and positively correlated to fertilizer and manure sources. Results for total phosphorus were similar to those for total suspended solids, on which most transported phosphorus is adsorbed.

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Copyright © 2002. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.31:72–83.