Uncertainties in annual riverine phosphorus load estimation: Impact of load estimation methodology, sampling frequency, baseflow index and catchment population density

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

220 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Models developed to identify the rates and origins of nutrient export from land to stream require an accurate assessment of the nutrient load present in the water body in order to calibrate model parameters and structure. These data are rarely available at a representative scale and in an appropriate chemical form except in research catchments. Observational errors associated with nutrient load estimates based on these data lead to a high degree of uncertainty in modelling and nutrient budgeting studies. Here, daily paired instantaneous P and flow data for 17 UK research catchments covering a total of 39 water years (WY) have been used to explore the nature and extent of the observational error associated with nutrient flux estimates based on partial fractions and infrequent sampling. The daily records were artificially decimated to create 7 stratified sampling records, 7 weekly records, and 30 monthly records from each WY and catchment. These were used to evaluate the impact of sampling frequency on load estimate uncertainty. The analysis underlines the high uncertainty of load estimates based on monthly data and individual P fractions rather than total P. Catchments with a high baseflow index and/or low population density were found to return a lower RMSE on load estimates when sampled infrequently than those with a tow baseflow index and high population density. Catchment size was not shown to be important, though a limitation of this study is that daily records may fail to capture the full range of P export behaviour in smaller catchments with flashy hydrographs, leading to an underestimate of uncertainty in Load estimates for such catchments. Further analysis of sub-daily records is needed to investigate this fully. Here, recommendations are given on load estimation methodologies for different catchment types sampled at different frequencies, and the ways in which this analysis can be used to identify observational error and uncertainty for model calibration and nutrient budgeting studies. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)241-258
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume332
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Keywords

  • uncertainty load estimation phosphorus model calibration nutrient budgets WATER-QUALITY LOWLAND STREAMS COASTAL WATERS NUTRIENT SEDIMENT LOIS EQUIFINALITY TRANSPORT DISCHARGE NITROGEN

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