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Associating the spatial properties of a watershed with downstream Chl-a concentration using spatial analysis and generalized additive models

Kim, Jin Hwi, Lee, Dong Hoon, Kang, Joo-Hyon
Water research 2019 v.154 pp. 387-401
agricultural land, algae, chlorophyll, climate, decision making, environmental factors, highlands, land use, models, monitoring, pollutants, riparian buffers, soil types, streams, topography, wastewater treatment, water quality, watersheds
We examined the relationship between downstream algal growth potential and the spatial environmental factors of both upland areas and stream buffer zones using spatial analysis and generalized additive models (GAMs). The models employed site-representative concentrations of chlorophyll a (Chl-a) from a total of 688 national water quality monitoring stations and the spatial factors of the corresponding 688 watersheds. The spatial environmental factors included topography, climate, land use class, soil type, and proximity of the monitoring station to the weir downstream and wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). The explanatory power (adjusted R2 or Radj2) of the models was used to compare different spatial influential scales defined by stream buffers and upstream circular buffers. The spatial environmental factors of the entire watershed area better explained the inter-station variation in Chl-a than did those of the stream buffer and/or upstream circular buffer areas. However, the spatial environmental factors of watershed areas more than 25 km upstream circular buffer zones had only minor influence on the explainability of the models with regards to the inter-station variation in Chl-a levels. Generally, land use patterns were more strongly related to the inter-station Chl-a variation than were point sources of pollutants such as WWTPs. The two most influencing land uses on the inter-station Chl-a variation were urban and agricultural land uses, with varying relative contributions depending on the spatial influential scale: In general relative contribution of urban land use was larger at a larger spatial influential scale while that of agricultural land use showed an opposite trend. In addition, the proximity to the weir downstream explained high Chl-a concentrations in the stream water. Relative importance and causal effects of the spatial environmental variables to instream Chl-a were established based on this national scale correlative analysis, leading to decision-making with the goal of controlling instream algal growth.