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Loss of subsurface particulate and truly dissolved phosphorus during various flow conditions along a tile drain–ditch–brook continuum (2023)

Siebers N., Kruse J., Jia Y., Lennartz B., Koch S.

Science of The Total Environment, 866 (), 161439




Subsurface losses of colloidal and truly dissolved phosphorus (P) from arable land can cause ecological damage to surface water. To gain deeper knowledge about subsurface particulate P transport from inland sources to brooks, we studied an artificially drained lowland catchment (1550 ha) in north-eastern Germany. We took daily samples during the winter discharge period 2019/2020 at different locations, i.e., a drain outlet, ditch, and brook, and analyzed them for total P (TPunfiltered), particulate P >750 nm (TP>750 nm), colloidal P (TPcolloids), and truly dissolved P (truly DP) during baseflow conditions and high flow events. The majority of TPunfiltered in the tile drain, ditch, and brook was formed by TP>750 nm (54 to 59 %), followed by truly DP (34 to 38 %) and a small contribution of TPcolloids (5 to 6 %). During flow events, 63 to 66 % of TPunfiltered was present as particulate P (TP>750 nm + TPcolloids), whereas during baseflow the figure was 97 to 99 %; thus, truly DP was almost negligible (1 to 3 % of TPunfiltered) during baseflow. We also found that colloids transported in the water samples have their origin in the water-extractable nanocolloids (0.66 to 20 nm) within the C horizon, which are mainly composed of clay minerals. Along the flow path there is an agglomeration of P-bearing nanocolloids from the soil, with an increasing importance of iron(III) (hydr)oxides over clay particles. Event flow facilitated the transport of greater amounts of larger particles (>750 nm) through the soil matrix. However, the discharge did not exhaust colloid mobilization and colloidal P was exported through the tile-drainage system during the complete runoff period, even under baseflow conditions. Therefore, it is essential that the impact of rainfall intensity and pattern on particulate P discharge be considered more closely so that drainage management can be adjusted to achieve a reduced P export from agricultural land.