Phosphorus is a leading pollutant of global surface waters, and sediment is a known driver of phosphorus loading to downstream receiving waters. This master’s thesis investigates sources and dynamics of phosphorus in the Le Sueur River basin in southern Minnesota, a highly agricultural watershed whose glacial history has rendered it vulnerable to massive erosion, and which contributes disproportionately to downstream sediment and phosphorus loading. We develop a mass balance for sediment-derived phosphorus, incorporating sediment-total and dissolved phosphorus into a robust sediment budget describing sources and sinks of sediment to this system. This budget explores the extent to which agricultural top soil and upland ditch-banks, and eroding near channel features such as bluffs, stream banks, and ravines, can be implicated for phosphorus loading to this basin. Further, we explore the extent to which in-stream processing alters the fate, bioavailability, and persistence of phosphorus in this system via the incorporation of sorption experimental data into this budget. Our results show that fine (silt and clay sized) source sediment can only account for at most 24% of the total phosphorus exported from the Le Sueur River. These results suggest that sediment and phosphorus sources are largely decoupled, and that if we managed 100% of fine sediment erosion we would only reduce phosphorus loading by 24% or less. Sorption tests were used to examine the role of fine sediment as a source or sink for phosphorus. Results of these tests demonstrate that agricultural sediments donate phosphorus, while near channel sediments bind phosphorus from the water column. Incorporation of these results into our budget indicates that 2-24% of total phosphorus may be in particulate form as a result of in-stream equilibrium processes between sediment and dissolved orthophosphate in the water column. Sorption of dissolved phosphorus by sediment may depress dissolved phosphorus load by as much as 31%. These results point to the importance of understanding dissolved phosphorus source and dynamics, and to the management of both sediment and dissolved phosphorus source being critical to addressing excess phosphorus in this basin.
Baker, Anna; Finlay, Jacques; Gran, Karen; Rorer, Michelle; Belo, Tessa; Atkins, Walter; Muramoto-Mathieu, Megumi; Yetter, Kara; Katherine, Kemmitt. (2019). Le Sueur River Basin Sediment Characterization - chemical and physical properties of sediments collected 2015-2018. Retrieved from the Data Repository for the University of Minnesota,
University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. August 2018. Major: Water Resources Science. Advisor: Jacques Finlay and Karen Gran. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 122 pages.
Phosphorus-sediment interactions and their implications for watershed scale phosphorus dynamics in the Le Sueur River Basin.
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