Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.5194/hess-26-5051-2022
Licence creative commons licence
Title (Primary) Effect of topographic slope on the export of nitrate in humid catchments: a 3D model study
Author Yang, J.; Wang, Q.; Heidb├╝chel, I.; Lu, C.; Xie, Y.; Musolff, A.; Fleckenstein, J.H.
Journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
Year 2022
Department HDG
Volume 26
Issue 19
Page From 5051
Page To 5068
Language englisch
Topic T5 Future Landscapes
Abstract Excess export of nitrate to streams affects ecosystem structure and functions and has been an environmental issue attracting worldwide attention. The dynamics of catchment-scale solute export from diffuse nitrogen sources can be explained by the changes of dominant flow paths, as solute attenuation (including the degradation of nitrate) is linked to the age composition of outflow. Previous data-driven studies suggested that catchment topographic slope has strong impacts on the age composition of streamflow and consequently on in-stream solute concentrations. However, the impacts have not been systematically assessed in terms of solute mass fluxes and solute concentration levels, particularly in humid catchments with strong seasonality in meteorological forcing. To fill this gap, we modeled the groundwater flow and nitrate transport for a small agricultural catchment in Central Germany. We used the fully coupled surface and subsurface numerical simulator HydroGeoSphere (HGS) to model groundwater and overland flow and nitrate transport. We computed the water ages using numerical tracer experiments. To represent various topographic slopes, we additionally simulated 10 synthetic catchments generated by modifying the topographic slope from the real-world scenario. Results suggest a negative correlation between the young streamflow fraction and the topographic slope. This correlation is more pronounced in flat landscapes with slopes < 1 : 60. Flatter landscapes tend to retain more N mass in the soil (including mass degraded in soil) and export less N mass to the stream, due to reduced leaching and increased degradation. The mean in-stream nitrate concentration shows a decreasing trend in response to a decreasing topographic slope, suggesting that a large young streamflow fraction is not sufficient for high in-stream concentrations. Our results improve the understanding of nitrate export in response to topographic slope in a temperate humid climate, with important implications for the management of stream water quality.
Persistent UFZ Identifier
Yang, J., Wang, Q., Heidb├╝chel, I., Lu, C., Xie, Y., Musolff, A., Fleckenstein, J.H. (2022):
Effect of topographic slope on the export of nitrate in humid catchments: a 3D model study
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 26 (19), 5051 - 5068