Yue F, Li S, Waldron S, Oliver DM, Chen X, Li P, Peng T & Liu C (2023) Source availability and hydrological connectivity determined nitrate-discharge relationships during rainfall events in karst catchment as revealed by high-frequency nitrate sensing. Water Research, 231, Art. No.: 119616. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2023.119616
Karst terrain seasonal monsoonal rainfall is often associated with high concentrations of nitrate-N in streams draining agricultural land. Such high concentrations can pose problems for environmental and human health. However, the relationship between rainfall events that mobilize nitrate and resulting nitrate export remains poorly understood in karst terrain. To better understand the processes that drive nitrate dynamics during rainfall events, the characteristics of individual rainfall events were analyzed using sensor technology. Thirty-eight rainfall events were separated from the high-frequency dataset spanning 19 months at a karst spring site. The results revealed that nitrate-discharge (N-Q) hysteresis in 79% of rainfall events showed anticlockwise hysteresis loop patterns, indicating nitrate export from long distances within short event periods. Karstic hydrological connectivity and source availability were considered two major determining factors of N-Q hysteresis. Gradual increase in hydrological connectivity during intensive rainfall period accelerated nitrate transportation by karst aquifer systems. Four principal components (PCs, including antecedent conditions PC1&3 and rainfall characteristics PC2&4 explained 82% of the cumulative variance contribution to the rainfall events. Multiple linear regression of four PCs explained more than 50% of the variation of nitrate loading and amplitude during rainfall events, but poorly described nitrate concentrations and hydro-chemistry parameters, which may be influenced by other factors, e.g., nitrate transformation, fertilization time and water-rock interaction. Although variation of N concentration during event flow is evident, accounting for antecedent conditions and rainfall factors can help to predict rainfall event N loading during rainfall events. Pollution of the karstic catchment occurred by a flush of nitrate input following rainfall events; antecedent and rainfall conditions are therefore important factors to consider for the water quality management. Reducing source availability during the wet season may facilitate to reduction of nitrogen loading in similar karst areas.
Concentration-discharge; Hysteresis; Rainfall event; Antecedent conditions; Hydrological connectivity
Water Research: Volume 231