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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-257
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-257
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 22 Jun 2020

Submitted as: research article | 22 Jun 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Spatio-temporal controls of C-N-P dynamics across headwater catchments of a temperate agricultural region from public data analysis

Stella Guillemot1,2, Ophelie Fovet1, Chantal Gascuel-Odoux1, Gérard Gruau3, Antoine Casquin1, Florence Curie2, Camille Minaudo4, Laurent Strohmenger1, and Florentina Moatar5,2 Stella Guillemot et al.
  • 1INRAE, AGROCAMPUS OUEST/INSTITUT AGRO, UMR SAS, 35000 Rennes, France
  • 2Université de Tours, EA 6293 GéHCO, 37200 Tours, France
  • 3OSUR, Geosciences Rennes, CNRS, Université Rennes 1, 35000 Rennes, France
  • 4EPFL, Physics of Aquatic Systems Laboratory, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 5INRAE, RIVERLY, 69625 Villeurbanne, France

Abstract. Characterizing and understanding spatial variability in water quality for a variety of chemical elements is an issue for present and future water resource management. However, most studies of spatial variability in water quality focus on a single element and rarely consider headwater catchments. Moreover, they assess few catchments and focus on annual means without considering seasonal variations. To overcome these limitations, we studied spatial variability and seasonal variation in dissolved C, N, and P concentrations at the scale of an intensively farmed region of France (Brittany). We analyzed 185 headwater catchments (from 5–179 km2) for which 10-year time series of monthly concentrations and daily stream flow were available from public databases. We calculated interannual loads, concentration percentiles, and seasonal metrics for each element to assess their spatial patterns and correlations. We then performed rank correlation analyses between water quality, human pressures, and soil and climate features. Results show that nitrate (NO3) concentrations increased with increasing agricultural pressures and base flow contribution; dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations decreased with increasing rainfall, base flow contribution, and topography; and soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) concentrations showed weaker positive correlations with diffuse and point sources, rainfall and topography. An opposite pattern was found between DOC and NO3: spatially, between their median concentrations, and temporally, according to their seasonal cycles. The annual maximum NO3 concentration was in-phase with maximum flow when the base flow index was low, but this synchrony disappeared when flow flashiness was lower. The annual maximum SRP concentration occurred during the low-flow period in nearly all catchments. The approach shows that despite the relatively low frequency of public water quality data, such databases can provide consistent pictures of the spatio-temporal variability of water quality and of its drivers as soon as they contain a large number of catchments to compare and a sufficient length of concentration time series.

Stella Guillemot et al.

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Short summary
This study investigates the drivers of spatial variations in stream water quality in poorly studied headwater catchments and including multiple elements involved in major water quality issues such as eutrophication. We used a regional public dataset of monthly stream water concentrations monitored during 10 years over 185 agricultural catchments. We found a spatial and seasonal opposition between Carbon and Nitrates concentrations while Phosphorus concentrations showed another spatial pattern.
This study investigates the drivers of spatial variations in stream water quality in poorly...
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