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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Short Communications

Water Quality in Headwater Catchments with Deer Wallows


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 36 No. 5, p. 1377-1382
    Received: Jan 7, 2007

    * Corresponding author(s): richard.mcdowell@agresearch.co.nz
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  1. R.W. McDowell *
  1. AgResearch, Invermay Agricultural Centre, Private Bag 50034, Mosgiel, New Zealand


The pastoral grazing of farmed red deer (Cervus elaphus) is common in New Zealand. However, red deer have a natural instinct to seek out water and wallow in it. Often, in headwater catchments, they will create a wallow in a wet area connected to a waterway. Aesthetically, wallowing areas can be unpleasant and give the impression they are significant sources of contaminants entering waterways. This paper aimed to quantify their contribution to loads of contaminants lost from three headwater catchments (4.1 to 32.1 ha). Monthly water samples were taken of base flow and of all storm flow events and analyzed for nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) species, suspended sediment (SS), and the fecal indicator bacteria–E. coli. Median concentrations were generally in excess of recommended guidelines for lowland water quality and contact recreation in New Zealand (guidelines = 9 μg dissolved reactive P L−1, 30 μg total P L−1, 444 μg nitrate and nitrite N L−1, 0.9 mg NH4 +–N L−1 at pH 7, 4 mg SS L−1, and 260 cfu 100 mL−1). Loads of P (up to c. 3 kg P ha−1) and SS (up to 4.5 Mg ha−1) exceeded the highest loads measured (1.7 kg P and 2 Mg SS ha−1) for a range of pastoral catchments in New Zealand, including deer-farmed catchments without many wallows connected to waterways. More losses occurred during storm flow than base flow but, more importantly, the majority of losses only occurred when deer were in the paddock and wallowing. Hence, to mitigate most contaminant losses, management should focus on discouraging wallowing and/or breaking the connectivity between wallows and waterways.

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Copyright © 2007. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyAmerican Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America