Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 699-714, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
06 Mar 2012
Land use effect and hydrological control on nitrate yield in subtropical mountainous watersheds
J.-C. Huang1, T.-Y. Lee1, S.-J. Kao2,3, S.-C. Hsu2, H.-J. Lin4, and T.-R. Peng5 1Department of Geography, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
2Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
3State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China
4Department of Life Sciences, National Chung Hsing University, Taichung, Taiwan
5Department of Soil and Environmental Sciences, National Chung Hsing University, Taichung, Taiwan
Abstract. Nitrate export in small subtropical watersheds is rarely observed and the estimation of individual land use nitrate yield from a mixed combination within catchments has scarcely been studied. In this study the nitrate concentrations at 16 nested catchments in the Chi-Chia-Wan watershed in Central Taiwan were measured during 2007–2008. A 3-layer TOPMODEL was applied to estimate daily discharge for ungauged sub-catchments. The observed nitrate concentrations and the simulated discharges were used for nitrate flux estimations through four flux methods. Meanwhile, a new deconvolution computation was developed to resolve the nitrate yield of each land use from within the mixed combinations.

The results showed that the observed mean NO3-N concentration in relatively pristine catchments was approximately 0.145 ± 0.103 mg l−1, which is comparable with other forestry catchments around the world. However, the higher rainfall/runoff, substantial N deposition, and other nitrogen sources resulted in significantly higher annual export of approximately 238–1018 kg-N km−2 yr−1. Our deconvolution computation showed that the background yield of natural forestry was ~351 ±62 kg-N km−2 yr−1. On the other hand, the extremely high nitrate yield of active farmland was ~308, 170 ± 19 241 kg-N km−2 yr−1 due to over-fertilization. The deconvolution computation technique is capable of tracing the mixed signals at the outlet back to the nitrate productions from varied land use patterns. It advances the application of river monitoring network. The typical values of nitrate yields can serve as a guideline for land management. Comparing the nitrogen input and output, we found some nitrogen missing in the cycling which may indicate certain removal processes and we therefore suggest further study to be carried out to fully understand nitrogen cycling in subtropics.

Citation: Huang, J.-C., Lee, T.-Y., Kao, S.-J., Hsu, S.-C., Lin, H.-J., and Peng, T.-R.: Land use effect and hydrological control on nitrate yield in subtropical mountainous watersheds, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 699-714,, 2012.
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