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Ben Thornes

Value of high-resolution nutrient monitoring: Case study of the River Frome

Wednesday 16th July 2014

The value of high-resolution nutrient monitoring: A case study of the River Frome, Dorset, UK

The River Frome was sampled at sub-daily sampling interval, with additional storm sampling, through an annual cycle. Samples were analysed for total phosphorus (TP), soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) and dissolved reactive silicon (Si). The resulting data set was artificially decimated to mimic sampling frequencies from 12 h to monthly time interval. Monthly sampling interval resulted in significant errors in the estimated annual TP and SRP load of up to 35% and 28% respectively, and the resulting data sets were insufficient to observe peaks in P concentration in response to storm events. Weekly sampling reduced the maximum percentage errors in annual load estimate to 15.4% and 6.5% TON and silicon concentrations were less variable with changing river flow, and monthly sampling was sufficient to predict annual load estimates to within 10%. However, to investigate within-river nutrient dynamics and behaviour, it is suggested that a weekly sampling interval would be the minimum frequency required for TON and Si studies, and daily sampling would be a minimum requirement to adequately investigate phosphorus dynamics. The loss in nutrient-concentration signal due to reduced sampling interval is presented. Hysteresis in the nutrient concentration/flow relationships for all 32 storm events during the study period were modelled and seasonal patterns discussed to infer nutrient sources and behaviour. The high-resolution monitoring in this study identified, for the first time, major peaks in phosphorus concentration in winter that coincide with sudden falls in air temperature, and was associated with biofilm breakdown. This study has shown that to understand complex catchment nutrient processes, accurately quantify nutrient exports from catchments, and observe changes in water quality as a result of nutrient mitigation efforts over time, it is vital that the newly emerging field-based automated sampler/analyzer technologies begin to be deployed, to allow for routine high-resolution monitoring of our rivers in the future.

Read the full article here.

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