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Phosphorus source—sink relationships of stream sediments in the Rathbun Lake watershed in southern Iowa, USA

Najphak Hongthanat, John L. Kovar, Michael L. Thompson, James R. Russell, Thomas M. Isenhart
Environmental monitoring and assessment 2016 v.188 no.8 pp. 453
clay fraction, desorption, iron, lakes, land use change, nutrients, organic matter, pH, phosphorus, riparian areas, risk, sand fraction, sediments, source-sink relationships, streams, surface water, watersheds, Iowa
The surface waters of Rathbun Lake watershed in southern Iowa are impacted by agricultural sources of sediments and nutrients, including phosphorus (P). Because stream sediments often play an important role in regulating P concentrations in stream water, we investigated sediment–water column P relationships in four creeks within the watershed and then evaluated the relationship between sediment properties and indicators of the risk of P loss. Based on Mehlich-3-extractable P (17 to 68 mg kg⁻¹) and degree of P saturation (2 to 12 %), stream bank and bed sediments at the four sites were unlikely to serve as major sources of P. However, equilibrium P concentrations, which ranged from 0.02 to 0.12 mg L⁻¹, indicated that bed sediments could release P to the water column depending on dissolved P (DP) concentrations in the stream water and the time of year. The likelihood of P desorption from the sediments increased with increasing pH (r = 0.92, p < 0.01) and sand content (r = 0.78, p < 0.05), but decreased with clay content (r = −0.72, p < 0.05) and iron (Fe) (r = −0.93, p < 0.001) associated with organic matter. From these results, we speculate that changes in land use within the riparian areas may, at least initially, have little effect on P concentrations in the streams. Low concentrations of DP relative to total P (TP) in these streams, however, suggest that P loads to Rathbun Lake can be reduced if P inputs from eroded bank sediments are controlled.