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Hydrologic and water-quality response of forested and agricultural lands during the 1999 extreme weather conditions in eastern North Carolina

Author:
Shelby, J.D., Chescheir, G.M., Skaggs, R.W., Amatya, D.M.
Source:
Transactions of the ASAE 2005 v.48 no.6 pp. 2179-2188
ISSN:
0001-2351
Subject:
sediment yield, stream flow, water quality, nitrogen, forested watersheds, floods, losses from soil, nonpoint source pollution, watershed hydrology, hurricanes, phosphorus, coastal plains, agricultural watersheds, North Carolina
Abstract:
This study evaluated hydrologic and water-quality data collected on a coastal-plain research watershed during a series of hurricanes and tropical storms that hit coastal North Carolina in 1999, including hurricanes Dennis, Floyd, and Irene. During September and October 1999, the research watershed received approximately 555 mm of rainfall associated with hurricanes. This was the wettest such period in a 49-year historical weather record (1951-1999). Prior to the hurricanes, the watershed experienced a dry late winter, spring, and summer (565 cm for Feb.-Aug.). This was the third driest such period in the 49-year record. Maximum daily flow rates measured across the research watershed were greater during hurricane Floyd than for any other time in a four-year (1996-1999) study of the watershed. Daily flows observed for an agricultural subwatershed were generally greater than for a forested subwatershed throughout the study, and during the hurricanes of 1999. Daily nutrient loads measured across the research watershed were greater during hurricane Floyd than for any other time in the study. In general, the two-month period of hurricanes produced total nitrogen and total phosphorus loads nearly equal to average loads for an entire year. Total annual nitrogen export from an agricultural subwatershed was 18 kg/ha in 1999, with 11 kg/ha (61%) lost during September and October. Total annual nitrogen export from a forested subwatershed was 15 kg/ha in 1999, with 10 kg/ha (67%) lost during September and October. The nitrogen export observed in the forested subwatershed was high compared to other forested areas, likely due to the highly permeable organic soils in the watershed. Total annual phosphorus export from an agricultural subwatershed was 0.9 kg/ha in 1999, with 0.7 kg/ha (78%) lost during the hurricanes/tropical storms. Total annual phosphorus load from a forested subwatershed was 0.1 kg/ha in 1999, with 74% of the load exported during the months of September and October. Hurricanes and floods occur with some regularity in North Carolina, but the effects are infrequently documented. This study provides information that will contribute to greater understanding of how watersheds respond to these events.
Agid:
5541
Handle:
10113/5541