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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Landscape and Watershed Processes

Regional Scale Variability in Sediment and Nutrient Delivery from Small Agricultural Watersheds


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 31 No. 3, p. 870-879
    Received: May 29, 2001

    * Corresponding author(s): gert.verstraeten@geo.kuleuven.ac.be
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  1. Gert Verstraeten *ab and
  2. Jean Poesena
  1. a Laboratory for Experimental Geomorphology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Redingenstraat 16, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium
    b Postdoctoral Fellow of the Fund for Scientific Research—Flanders


Although many studies have pointed out the various controlling factors of sediment and nutrient delivery on a plot or watershed scale, little is known on the spatial variability of sediment and nutrient delivery on a regional scale. This study was conducted to reveal regional variations in sediment-associated nutrient delivery in central Belgium. Sediment deposited in 13 small retention ponds was sampled and analyzed for total phosphorus (TP), K, Mg, and Ca content. The TP content of the sediment deposits varied from 510 to 2001 mg P per kg sediment. Nutrients are predominantly fixed on the very fine sediment fraction (<16 μm), which is the reason why the nutrient trap efficiency of the ponds is only a fraction of the sediment trap efficiency. Average nutrient trap efficiency of the studied ponds varies between 4 and 31%, whereas sediment trap efficiency varies between 10 and 72%. For watersheds ranging from 7 to 4873 ha, sediment yield ranged between 1.2 and 20.6 Mg ha−1 yr−1, whereas TP export varied from 1.8 to 39.7 kg ha−1 yr−1 The observed spatial variability in nutrient losses is primarily attributed to regional variations in erosion and sediment yield values and to a far lesser degree to the spatial variations in fertilizer application. Redistribution of manure in the framework of an agricultural policy may increase the rate of nutrient delivery by ways of erosion and sediment transport.

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Copyright © 2002. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.31:870–879.