Contribution of N Species and P Fractions to Stream Water Quality in Agricultural Catchments

A. L. Heathwaite, Penny Johnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


The contribution from agricultural catchments to stream nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations was assessed by evaluation of the chemical composition of these nutrients in agricultural runoff for both surface and subsurface flow pathways. A range of land uses (grazed and ungrazed grassland, cereals, roots) in intensive agricultural systems was studied at scales from hillslope plots (0.5m2) to large catchment (>300km2). By fractionating the total nutrient load it was possible to establish that most of the phosphorus was transported in the unreactive (particulate and organic) fraction via surface runoff. This was true regardless of the scale of measurement. The form of the nitrogen load varied with land use and grazing intensity. High loads of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (with >90% transported as NH4-N) were recorded in surface runoff from heavily grazed land. In subsurface flow from small (2km2) subcatchments and in larger (>300 km2) catchments, organic nitrogen was found to be an important secondary constituent of the total nitrogen load, comprising 40% of the total annual load.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)971-983
Number of pages13
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1996


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