Characteristics of nitrogen retention along the river network of upper Xin’anjiang catchment in China

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ai Wang, Dawen Yang and Lihua Tang, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
Nitrogen (N) originates mainly from the non-point source (NPS) in the headwaters of many rivers. Understanding the nitrogen retention characteristics along the river network is important for land management in order to implement water resources protection. This study employs a geomorphology based non-point source pollution (GBNP) model to simulate the hillslope hydrological processes, sediment and pollutants transportation in the upper Xin’anjiang catchment in recent 10 years from 2001 to 2010. Calibration and validation of the GBNP model are carried out carefully using the observed discharge, sediment and total nitrogen (TN) concentrations at several hydrological gauges, and then the simulated results of the whole catchment are used to analyze the spatial and temporal distribution of nitrogen along the river networks with emphasis on its retention characteristics. The simulated results indicate that annual TN loaded from the hillslopes in the study catchment ranges from nearly 4000 ton to 11,000 ton and relatively higher TN load occurred in spring and summer. Average TN loads from hillslopes have significant positive correlation with the irrigated-cropland area (correlation coefficient =0.820), and significant negative correlation with the area of forest and grassland (correlation coefficient =-0.427 and -0.246). Seasonal nitrogen retention ratio in the river networks of study catchment in last 10 years varies from 0%-81%, and the streams of order 1 in the Horton-Strahler ordering system has the highest retention ratio and is followed by order 2, order 3 and order 4. The results also indicate that nitrogen retention ratio has positive correlation with river length and negative correlation with discharge and velocity. Scenario analysis of fertilizer application demonstrates that the nitrogen retention ratio increases logarithmically with the TN load and reach a maximum value rapidly.