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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Surface Water Quality

Water and Nutrient Transport on a Heavy Clay Soil in a Fluvial Plain in The Netherlands


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 41 No. 1, p. 229-241
    Received: Aug 15, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): caroline.vandersalm@wur.nl
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  1. Caroline van der Salm *a,
  2. Antonie van den Toorna,
  3. Wim J. Chardona and
  4. Gerwin F. Koopmansab
  1. a Alterra, Wageningen Univ. and Research Centre (WUR), P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
    b Dep. of Soil Quality, Wageningen Univ., WUR, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Assigned to Associate Editor Carl Bolster


In flat areas, transport of dissolved nutrients by water through the soil matrix to groundwater and drains is assumed to be the dominant pathway for nutrient losses to ground- and surface waters. However, long-term data on the losses of nutrients to surface water and the contribution of various pathways is limited. We studied nutrient losses and pathways on a heavy clay soil in a fluvial plain in The Netherlands during a 5-yr period. Average annual nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) losses to surface water were 15.1 and 3.0 kg ha−1 yr−1, respectively. Losses were dominated by particulate N (50%) and P (70%) forms. Rapid discharge through trenches was the dominant pathway (60–90%) for water and nutrient transport. The contribution of pipe drains to the total discharge of water and nutrients was strongly related to the length of the dry period in the preceding summer. This relationship can be explained by the very low conductivity of the soil matrix and the formation of shrinkage cracks during summer. Losses of dissolved reactive P through pipe drains appear to be dominated by preferential flow based on the low dissolved reactive P concentration in the soil matrix at this depth. Rainfall occurring after manure application played an important role with respect to the annual losses of N and P in spring when heavy rainfall occurred within 2 wk after manure application.

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