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Impact of fertilizer on a small watershed of Lake Biwa: Use of sulfur and strontium isotopes in environmental diagnosis

Hosono, T., Nakano, T., Igeta, A., Tayasu, I., Tanaka, T., Yachi, S.
The Science of the total environment 2007 v.384 no.1-3 pp. 342-354
fertilizers, agricultural watersheds, sulfur, strontium, stable isotopes, environmental impact, river water, agricultural soils, irrigation water, sulfates, point source pollution, ammonium sulfate, seasonal variation, summer, soil water, compound fertilizers, rocks, environmental assessment, copper, zinc, water pollution, arsenic, cadmium, lead, uranium, antimony, Japan
Sulfur and strontium isotopes (δ34S and 87Sr/86Sr) were determined in 39 river water samples collected over three different cultivation periods (April, May, and June), and in several materials used for comparison (fertilizers, detergents, soils, irrigation and agricultural waters), to evaluate the impact of fertilizers on a small agricultural watershed of Lake Biwa, in central Japan. δ34S values in river water decreased (from + 5.8 to - 2.0 per thousand) with increasing SO4 concentrations (3.8 to 93.2 ppm) from upstream to downstream of the watershed. Comparison of river water S isotopes with those of possible source materials indicates that the enrichment of SO4 can be attributed to the dissolution of two kinds of fertilizers: (1) compound fertilizers commonly used in this area and (2) ammonium sulfate which is applied on a small scale. In contrast, 87Sr/86Sr values of river water decreased with time from April (avg. 0.71163), through May (avg. 0.71139), to June (avg. 0.71127). The tendency of the sample plots on the 87Sr/86Sr vs. 1/Sr diagram suggests a time-dependent increase in the contribution of soil water to the river, which is partly affected by the Sr-bearing fertilizers. It is suggested that a maximum of 25% of dissolved Sr is derived from these fertilizers, while more than 75% of it is of rock origin. Mass balance calculations permitted us to evaluate the proportion of fertilizer contribution in each river. Combined use of S and Sr isotopes together with concentration data could be a new environmental diagnosis technique for rivers and soils in localized watersheds.