Submitted to: Agriculture Ecosystems and the Environment
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/6/2011
Publication Date: 5/1/2011
Citation: Mittelstet, A.R., Heeren, D.M., Fox, G.A., Storm, D.E., White, M.J., Miller, R.B. 2011. Comparison of subsurface and surface runoff phosphorus transport rates in alluvial floodplains. Agriculture Ecosystems and the Environment. 141(3-4):417-425. Interpretive Summary: Phosphorus losses from subsurface sources are often thought to be negligible. Monitoring wells were installed in two Ozark pastures adjacent to streams to estimate subsurface phosphorus losses to streams. Surface phosphorus losses were simulated using PPM Plus. Subsurface losses were roughly half the magnitude of surface losses, indicating the importance of subsurface pathways under certain conditions.
Technical Abstract: Phosphorus (P) loading to streams can occur by both surface runoff and subsurface transport. Although surface runoff is often considered the dominant pathway, groundwater P concentrations in alluvial aquifers can be significant, especially in preferential flow paths (PFPs). The objectives of this research were to quantify subsurface P transport rates at two sites in northeastern Oklahoma and to compare them with surface runoff P transport rates derived from a hydrologic model, the Pasture Phosphorus Management Calculator (PPM Plus). Ozark ecoregion study sites were adjacent to the Barren Fork Creek and Honey Creek in northeastern OK, USA. Each site, instrumented with twenty-four observation wells, was monitored for several months for both groundwater levels and P concentrations. Using the flow and P concentration data, Monte Carlo simulations with Darcy’s Law and a P transport rate equation were used to calculate the distributions of subsurface P transport rates across a transect within the well field containing a single identified PFP. Total subsurface P transport rates, through both the non-PFP flow domain and a single PFP, were estimated to be 0.04 kg yr-1 and 0.03 kg yr-1 for the Barren Fork Creek and Honey Creek field sites, respectively. Monte Carlo simulations for surface runoff P transport rates with PPM Plus resulted in average total P surface runoff transport rates of 0.07 kg yr-1 for the Barren Fork Creek site and 0.08 kg yr-1 for the Honey Creek site. For the groundwater at these floodplains, the P source was P-laden stream water flowing into the alluvial aquifer and a minimal quantity of P leaching from the surface. Results indicated that the subsurface P transport rates for small (3 ha) alluvial floodplain sites in the Ozark ecoregion were at least 0.03 to 0.04 kg yr-1, although subsurface P transport rates may be higher in cases with greater numbers of PFPs and where the subsurface is connected to a larger P source.