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Nutrient and suspended-sediment concentrations in the Maumee River and tributaries during 2019 rain-induced fallow conditions

November 22, 2021

Above average precipitation from October 2018 through July 2019 in the Maumee River (R.) Basin resulted in 29% of cropland left fallow, providing a glimpse of potential effects from decreased nutrient application. Ongoing monitoring at 15 water-quality sites on the Maumee R. upstream from Defiance enabled comparison with 2017, which was hydrologically similar to 2019 in precipitation and streamflow. In 2019, nitrate (as nitrogen; NO3-N) for March-July was significantly less than previous years (2015–2018), but the response for phosphorus (P) was more complicated. Relative to 2017, total P (TP) was lower at 7 of 15 sites, but higher at 7, reflecting higher suspended sediment (SS). Dissolved P (DP) was generally lower, but less different than NO3; DP was higher at 3 sites. DP-P:NO3-N was generally higher in 2019, DP-P:TP was lower, and there was less TP relative to SS. Overall, less P was in the system in 2019. However smaller streams showed a large range of difference between 2019 and 2017 for all constituents, indicating variability in land management and physiography. In contrast, all constituents were lower in 2019 in larger (>5000 km2) streams, including the Maumee R. near Defiance, where the difference in NO3 (−37%) exceeded that for TP (−16%), DP (−10%), and SS (−20%). Differences in these relations among N, P, and SS indicate that P was available from legacy sources that are more difficult to distinguish during typical agricultural production years and that some material from 2019 was stored in the system upstream from the largest sites.