Articles | Volume 18, issue 6
Research article
17 Jun 2014
Research article |  | 17 Jun 2014

Dissolved and particulate nutrient transport dynamics of a small Irish catchment: the River Owenabue

S. T. Harrington and J. R. Harrington

Abstract. The objective of this research was to investigate the relationship between water and sediment discharge on the transport of nutrients: nitrogen and phosphorus. Water discharge, suspended sediment concentration and dissolved and particulate forms of nitrogen and phosphorus were monitored on the 105 km2 River Owenabue catchment in Ireland.

Water discharge was found to have an influence on both particulate and dissolved nutrient transport, but more so for particulate nutrients. The particulate portion of N and P in collected samples was found to be 24 and 39%, respectively. Increased particulate nitrogen concentrations were found at the onset of high discharge events, but did not correlate well to discharge. High concentrations of phosphorus were associated with increased discharge rates and the coefficient of determination (r2) between most forms of phosphorus and both discharge and suspended sediment concentrations were observed to be greater than 0.5.

The mean TN yield is 4004 kg km−2 yr−1 for the full 29-month monitoring period with a mean PN yield of 982 kg km−2 yr−1, 25% of the TN yield with the contribution to the yield of PN and PP estimated to be 25 and 53% respectively. These yields represent a PN and PP contribution to the suspended sediment load of 5.6 and 0.28% respectively for the monitoring period.

While total nitrogen and total phosphorus levels were similar to other European catchments, levels of bio-available phosphorus were elevated indicating a potential risk of eutrophication within the river.