Intra- and inter-annual export of nitrogen and phosphorus in the sub-tropical Richmond River catchment, Australia

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McKee, LJ, Eyre, BD & Hossain, S 2000, 'Intra- and inter-annual export of nitrogen and phosphorus in the sub-tropical Richmond River catchment, Australia', Hydrological Processes, vol. 14, pp. 1787-1809.

The publisher's version of this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/1099-1085(200007)14:10<1787::AID-HYP42>3.0.CO;2-Z


Nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations were measured and exports were calculated in the subtropical Richmond River catchment between July 1994 and June 1996. A stratified sampling approach was adopted owing to the extreme and rapid changes in riverine discharge, which varied by up to 10 000 times over the study period. Nutrient concentrations were lowest during baseflow. During storm discharge, dissolve inorganic and organic and particulate nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations increased two- to five fold, and followed hysteresis patterns that were attributed to the integration and/or depletion of catchment nutrient sources during an event. Dissolved organic nitrogen and particulate phosphorus were the dominant nutrient forms. Land use and antecedent conditions had a large influence on nutrient concentrations and exports. During the 1995-96 year (slightly above the mean annual discharge) 96% of nitrogen and 98% of phosphorus loads were transported in less than 6% of the time. When averaged across the catchment, monthly riverine nutrient loads varied by up to 1061-fold during the study and exports were approximately four-fold greater during the second year relative to the first. The subtropical Richmond River catchment has greater intra- and potential interannual variability in nutrient loads and exports when compared with temperate catchments from other parts of the world. It is suggested that in tropical and subtropical Australian catchments with large intra- and interannual variation in discharge, the need for parameterizing the antecedent conditions, such as the degree of nutrient storage, may make it difficult to model spatial and temporal (short time-scale) nutrient exports.