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Distinct export dynamics for dissolved and particulate phosphorus reveal independent transport mechanisms in an arable headwater catchment

Dupas, Rémi, Gascuel‐Odoux, Chantal, Gilliet, Nicolas, Grimaldi, Catherine, Gruau, Gérard
Hydrological processes 2015 v.29 no.14 pp. 3162-3178
floods, groundwater, highlands, hysteresis, models, overland flow, phosphorus, seasonal variation, sediments, soil horizons, spring, storms, stream channels, subsurface flow, watersheds, wetland soils, wetlands
This paper investigates particulate phosphorus (PP) and soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) concentrations at the outlet of a small (5 km²) intensively farmed catchment to identify seasonal variability of sources and transport pathways for these two phosphorus forms. The shape and direction of discharge‐concentration hystereses during floods were related to the hydrological conditions in the catchment during four hydrological periods. Both during flood events and on an annual basis, contrasting export dynamics highlighted a strong decoupling between SRP and PP export. During most flood events, discharge‐concentration hystereses for PP were clockwise, indicating mobilization of a source located within or near the stream channel. Seasonal variability of PP export was linked to the availability of stream sediments and the export capacity of the stream. In contrast, hysteresis shapes for SRP were anticlockwise, which suggests that SRP was transferred to the stream via subsurface flow. Groundwater rise in wetland soils was likely the cause of this transfer, through the hydrological connectivity it created between the stream and P‐rich soil horizons. SRP concentrations were the highest when the relative contribution of deep groundwater from the upland domain was low compared with wetland groundwater. Hence, soils from non‐fertilized riparian wetlands seemed to be the main source of SRP in the catchment. This conceptual model of P transfer with distinct hydrological controls for PP and SRP was valid throughout the year, except during spring storm events, during which PP and SRP exports were synchronized as a consequence of overland flow and erosion on hillslopes. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.