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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Short Communications

Phosphorus Availability in Western Lake Erie Basin Drainage Waters: Legacy Evidence across Spatial Scales


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 46 No. 2, p. 466-469
    Received: Nov 08, 2016
    Accepted: Jan 23, 2017
    Published: March 17, 2017

    * Corresponding author(s): kevin.king@ars.usda.gov
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  1. Kevin W. King *a,
  2. Mark R. Williamsb,
  3. Laura T. Johnsonc,
  4. Douglas R. Smithd,
  5. Gregory A. LaBargee and
  6. Norman R. Fauseya
  1. a USDA-ARS Soil Drainage Research Unit, 590 Woody Hayes Dr., Columbus, OH 43210
    b USDA-ARS National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory, 275 S. Russell St., West Lafayette, IN 47907
    c National Center for Water Quality Research, Heidelberg Univ., 310 E. Market St., Tiffin, OH 44883
    d USDA-ARS Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory, 808 E. Blackland Rd., Temple, TX, 76502
    e The Ohio State Univ., 222 W. Center St., Marion, OH 43302
Core Ideas:
  • Persistent P concentrations were measured from edge-of-field to basin scale.
  • Persistent P concentrations after successive rainfall events are indicative of legacy P.
  • Evidence of legacy P beckons for more comprehensive soil test metrics.


The Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) was inundated with precipitation during June and July 2015 (two to three times greater than historical averages), which led to significant nutrient loading and the largest in-lake algal bloom on record. Using discharge and concentration data from three spatial scales (0.18–16,000 km2), we contrast the patterns in nitrate (NO3–N) and dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) concentration dynamics and discuss potential management implications. Across all scales, NO3–N concentration steadily declined with each subsequent rainfall event as it was flushed from the system. In contrast, DRP concentration persisted, even on soils at or below agronomic P levels, suggesting that legacy P significantly contributes to nutrient loads in the WLEB. These findings highlight the need to revisit current P fertility recommendations and soil testing procedures to increase P fertilizer use efficiency and to more holistically account for legacy P.

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Copyright © 2017. Copyright © by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.