The role of colloids and other fractions in the below-ground delivery of phosphorus from agricultural hillslopes to streams

M. Fresne, P. Jordan, K. Daly, O. Fenton, P.-E. Mellander

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Abstract

Colloids can be important for facilitated transfer of phosphorus (P) to groundwater (GW) and contribute to elevated P concentrations later delivered to surface water. To assess the role of colloidal P and other P fractions in delivery processes via below-ground pathways, this study investigated the influence of catchment and flow event characteristics on particulate (>450 nm), medium-sized colloidal (200–450 nm) and fine (<200 nm) P fractions in two agricultural hillslopes (TG, TA). Total and dissolved P fractions and their derivatives were also monitored. Samples in both stream and GW were taken weekly during baseflow conditions and every 2 h during storm conditions. Higher frequency monitoring of streamflow was also conducted to delineate hydrological flowpaths and determine P loads and hysteresis processes. Results indicated that during baseflow fine P was dominant in the streams (80 to 100 % of total P) and in shallow GW in TA (83 to 96 %) whereas in TG shallow GW was dominated by PP (55 to 96 %) possibly due to colloidal Fe-P complexes. Similarly, in TG shallow GW was dominated by PP (79 to 81 %) during high flow events. During a larger flow event (within the period of land fertilization) the quickflow pathway (24 % of total flow) delivered 3.2 g ha−1 of PP which was dominant in the stream (44 to 68 %). A smaller flow event (within the period of prohibited land fertilization) facilitated delivery of P via deeper baseflow pathways (87 % of total flow) as fine reactive P (1.3 g ha−1), also dominant in the stream (73 to 78 %). The research indicated a very limited presence of medium-sized colloidal P but a large presence of fine P that may contribute to elevating P concentrations above environmental thresholds. Further work should constrain the controlling factors for colloidal P presence/absence and also on the extent and speciation of coarser and finer fractions in the hillslope to stream continuum.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105735
JournalCatena
Volume208
Early online date24 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Phosphorus
  • Colloids
  • Hillslope
  • Stream
  • Groundwater
  • Catchment

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