Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



Type of Thesis

Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors

First Advisor

Beverley Wemple

Second Advisor

Donald Ross


phosphorus, sediment, forested watersheds, Vermont, Lake Champlain, geochemistry


Globally the quantity of reactive phosphorus (P) in soils, streams and groundwater has greatly increased throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries. This phenomenon is problematic in Vermont, evidenced by the repeated cyanobacteria blooms in shallow bays in Lake Champlain. While many studies have focused on P dynamics in agricultural watersheds, there is limited information on P dynamics in forested watersheds. Current remediation plans under the Lake Champlain total maximum daily loads (TMDL) call for substantial reductions in P loadings from forested areas of the basin. However, the lack of information and knowledge regarding forest P dynamics limits management and remediation plans. This study was conducted in three small forested watersheds, ranging in size from 2.5 to 8.3 square kilometers that have been managed under varying practices, including logging and maple sugaring. All three watersheds drain into Missisquoi Bay, a shallow bay in Lake Champlain that consistently has seasonal algal blooms. Streams in the forested watersheds were instrumented with turbidity sensors and pressure transducers to measure stage. A rating curve was developed during field visits to relate stage to discharge. Water samples were collected from May through November 2017 using ISCO Automated Samplers. A total of twenty storm events were captured, along with periodic baseflow sampling, and these data were used to characterize P concentrations and calculate seasonal P loadings. Results indicate that there is a strong positive relationship between turbidity, total suspended sediment and total phosphorus concentrations (R2 ranging from 0.64 to 0.83). The results of this project provide insight into transport of P and total suspended sediment within forested catchments of Lake Champlain tributaries. In particular, the research shows that fluxes in total phosphorus are linked to fluxes in total suspended sediment and that the overall monthly totals of P being exported from forested catchments are low, relative to urban, suburban and agricultural areas.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.