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Urban land use determines the vulnerability to nitrogen and phosphorus

 

Characterization of the vulnerability of water bodies to pollution from natural and anthropogenic sources requires understanding the relationship between land use and water quality. While this relationship has been studied before, the vulnerability to nitrogen and phosphorus as a function of land use has not been examined.

In the January-February 2017 issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality, researchers investigate the relationship between land use and vulnerability to nitrogen and phosphorus in a mixed-land use watershed located in the piedmont region of North Carolina where urbanization growth has been observed during the past two decades.

The team found that the vulnerability to nitrogen and phosphorus pollution computed as the probability of exceeding the nutrient standard limits was controlled primarily by urban land use, with higher vulnerabilities during dry years compared to normal and wet years.

The results of this study have important implications with regard to identifying the sources of pollution which determine the vulnerability of water bodies. Such findings can be used in decision making for water quality management. Targeting the conservation efforts to pollution sources that contribute highest to the water quality impairment can result in more effective and efficient policies.

Series of graphs showing vulnerability by land use

Read the full open access article in JEQ.