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Watershed- and reach-scale drivers of phosphorus retention and release by streambed sediment in a western Lake Erie watershed during summer

January 16, 2023

Reducing phosphorus (P) concentrations in aquatic ecosystems, is necessary to improve water quality and reduce the occurrence of harmful cyanobacterial algal blooms. Managing P reduction requires information on the role rivers play in P transport from land to downstream water bodies, but we have a poor understanding of when and where river systems are P sources or sinks. During the summers of 2019 and 2021, we sampled streambed sediment at 78 sites throughout the Maumee River network (a major source of P loads to Lake Erie) focusing on the zero equilibrium P concentration (EPC0), the soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) concentration at which sediment neither sorbs nor desorbs P. We used structural equation modeling to identify direct and indirect drivers of EPC0. Stream sediment was a P sink at 40 % and 67 % of sites in 2019 and 2021, respectively. During both years, spatial variation in EPC0 was shaped by stream water SRP concentrations, sediment P saturation, and sediment physicochemical characteristics. In turn, SRP concentrations and sediment P saturation (PSR) were influenced by agricultural land use and stream size. Effect of stream size differed among years with stream size having a greater effect on SRP in 2019 and on PSR in 2021. Streambed sediment is currently a net P sink across the sites sampled in the Maumee River network during summer, but sediment at these locations, especially sites in headwater streams, may become a P source if stream water SRP concentrations decrease. Our results improve the understanding of watershed- and reach-scale controls on EPC0 but also indicate the need for further research on how changes in SRP concentration as a result of conservation management implementation influences the role of streambed sediment in P transport to Lake Erie.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2023
Title Watershed- and reach-scale drivers of phosphorus retention and release by streambed sediment in a western Lake Erie watershed during summer
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.160804
Authors Rebecca Kreiling, Patrik Mathis Perner, Kenna Jean Breckner, Tanja N. Williamson, Lynn A. Bartsch, James M. Hood, Nathan F. Manning, Laura T. Johnson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70239810
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center