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Is nutrient contamination of groundwater causing eutrophication of groundwater-fed meadows?

By N.M. Pieterse, H. Olde Venterink, P.P. Schot and A.W.M. Verkroost


There is an ongoing debate as to whether nutrient contamination of groundwater under agricultural fields may\ud cause nutrient-enrichment and subsequent eutrophication in discharge areas. Often, there is only circumstantial\ud evidence to support this supposition (proximity of agricultural fields, direction of water flow, highly\ud productive vegetation). Research on solute transport along a flow path is necessary to evaluate the risk for\ud eutrophication. In this paper we present results of such a study. Two transects were established in a discharge\ud meadow, a few meters downstream from fertilized cornfields. Highly productive vegetation in parts of the\ud meadow suggested nutrient-enrichment caused by inflowof contaminated groundwater. This supposition was\ud supported by an analysis of groundwater flow paths, residence times and chloride as tracer for pollution.\ud However, the fate of nutrients along the flow path indicated otherwise.While we found high concentrations of\ud DIN (dissolved inorganic nitrogen), P and K under the cornfields, DIN and P concentrations drop below\ud detection limit when groundwater enters the meadow. Only K progressed into the meadow but did not enter\ud the root zone. We conclude that (1) polluted groundwater from the cornfields did not cause the nutrientenrichment,\ud as indicated by the highly productive vegetation. Restoration projects in discharge areas should\ud not focus upon measures in upstreamareas if only circumstantial evidence is available. Solute transport should\ud be considered as well. (2) BecauseKclearly showed to be the mostmobile nutrient, its importance for nutrientenrichment\ud in discharge wetlands merits more attention in future research

Topics: Milieukunde, Chloride tracing, Ecological restoration, Environmental quality, Groundwater pollution, Nature management, Nutrient-enrichment
Year: 2005
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