Presentation Title

Nitrogen Levels in Franklin County, Vermont Streams Through Agricultural and Forested Settings

Abstract

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nutrients such as nitrogen (N) in waterways play an important role in ecological processes and human health but concentrations can vary greatly by land cover. For example, in a recent study Beaulieu (2009) found that stream water concentrations were positively related to the proportion of agricultural land use in the basin and was derived from fertilizer use. In contrast, in forested streams the largest source of N is derived from decomposing leaf litter (Molinero et al, 2006). The purpose of our research was therefore was to assess the amount of DOC and nutrients (total N and nitrate) in forested vs. agricultural land cover and investigate land cover as a driver for nutrient dynamics. We hypothesized that stream samples from locations proximal to agricultural land cover will have a greater concentration of nitrogen that samples from distal locations and forested land covers, however we expected highest concentrations of DOC in the forested streams. To test these hypotheses we sampled streams of both land cover types at multiple locations, including the BREE EPSCoR sites, in northern Vermont. Total N concentrations for the upstream, midstream and downstream sites in forested and agricultural settings varied greatly but differences between the means were found to be insignificant (p=0.6921084092). In contrast, DOC was highest in the agricultural sites versus the forested sites, and the difference in means was statistically significant (p=0.0002). Overall, stream water N concentrations increased downstream from forested to agricultural settings, presumably due to accumulation of nutrients along the flowpath from fertilizers and possibly from cattle close by the stream.

Beaulieu, J. J., Arango, C. P., & Tank, J. L. (2009). The Effects of Season and Agriculture on Nitrous Oxide Production in Headwater Streams. Journal of Environment Quality, 38(2), 637. doi: 10.2134/jeq2008.0003

Molinero, J., & Pozo, J. (2006). Organic matter, nitrogen and phosphorus fluxes associated with leaf litter in two small streams with different riparian vegetation: a budget approach. Archiv Fur Hydrobiologie, 166(3), 363-385. doi:10.1127/0003-9136/2006/0166-0363

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Julia Perdrial

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Arts and Sciences

Program/Major

Environmental Sciences

Primary Research Category

Food & Environment Studies

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Nitrogen Levels in Franklin County, Vermont Streams Through Agricultural and Forested Settings

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nutrients such as nitrogen (N) in waterways play an important role in ecological processes and human health but concentrations can vary greatly by land cover. For example, in a recent study Beaulieu (2009) found that stream water concentrations were positively related to the proportion of agricultural land use in the basin and was derived from fertilizer use. In contrast, in forested streams the largest source of N is derived from decomposing leaf litter (Molinero et al, 2006). The purpose of our research was therefore was to assess the amount of DOC and nutrients (total N and nitrate) in forested vs. agricultural land cover and investigate land cover as a driver for nutrient dynamics. We hypothesized that stream samples from locations proximal to agricultural land cover will have a greater concentration of nitrogen that samples from distal locations and forested land covers, however we expected highest concentrations of DOC in the forested streams. To test these hypotheses we sampled streams of both land cover types at multiple locations, including the BREE EPSCoR sites, in northern Vermont. Total N concentrations for the upstream, midstream and downstream sites in forested and agricultural settings varied greatly but differences between the means were found to be insignificant (p=0.6921084092). In contrast, DOC was highest in the agricultural sites versus the forested sites, and the difference in means was statistically significant (p=0.0002). Overall, stream water N concentrations increased downstream from forested to agricultural settings, presumably due to accumulation of nutrients along the flowpath from fertilizers and possibly from cattle close by the stream.

Beaulieu, J. J., Arango, C. P., & Tank, J. L. (2009). The Effects of Season and Agriculture on Nitrous Oxide Production in Headwater Streams. Journal of Environment Quality, 38(2), 637. doi: 10.2134/jeq2008.0003

Molinero, J., & Pozo, J. (2006). Organic matter, nitrogen and phosphorus fluxes associated with leaf litter in two small streams with different riparian vegetation: a budget approach. Archiv Fur Hydrobiologie, 166(3), 363-385. doi:10.1127/0003-9136/2006/0166-0363