HYDROLOGIC LANDSCAPES ON THE DELMARVA PENINSULA PART 2: ESTIMATES OF BASE-FLOW NITROGEN LOAD TO CHESAPEAKE BAY1

Authors

  • L. Joseph. Bachman,

    1. Respectively, Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey, 208 Carroll Bldg., 8600 LaSalle Road, Towson, Maryland 21286, and Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey, 425 Jordan Road, Troy, New York 12180.
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  • Patrick J. Phillips

    1. Respectively, Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey, 208 Carroll Bldg., 8600 LaSalle Road, Towson, Maryland 21286, and Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey, 425 Jordan Road, Troy, New York 12180.
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  • 1

    Paper No. 95176 of the Water Resources Bulletin. Discussions are open until February 1, 1997.

Abstract

ABSTRACT: Base-flow samples were collected from 47 sampling sites for four seasons from 1990–91 on the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware and Maryland to relate stream chemistry to a “hydrologic landscape” and season. Two hydrologic landscapes were determined: (1) a well-drained landscape, characterized by a combination of a low percentage of forest cover, a low percentage of poorly drained soil, and elevated channel slope; and (2) poorly drained landscape, characterized by a combination of an elevated percentage of forest cover, an elevated percentage of poorly drained soil, and low channel slope. Concentrations of nitrogen were significantly related to the hydrologic landscape. Nitrogen concentrations tended to be higher in well-drained landscapes than in poorly drained ones. The highest instantaneous nitrogen yields occurred in well-drained landscapes during the winter. These yields were extrapolated over the part of the study area draining to Chesapeake Bay in order to provide a rough estimate of nitrogen load from base flow to the Bay and its estuarine tributaries. This estimate was compared to an estimate made by extrapolating from an existing long-term monitoring station. The load estimate from the stream survey data was 5 ± 106 kg of N per year, which was about four times the estimate, made from the existing long-term monitoring station. The stream-survey estimate of base flow represents about 40 percent of the total nitrogen load that enters the Bay and estuarine tributaries from all sources in the study area.

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