The Upper Mississippi River Basin is the largest source of reactive nitrogen (N) to the Gulf of Mexico. Concentration-discharge (C-Q) relationships offer a means to understand both the terrestrial sources that generate this reactive N and the in-stream processes that transform it. Progress has been made on identifying land use controls on C-Q dynamics. However, the impact of basin size and river network structure on C-Q relationships is not well characterized. Here, we show, using high-resolution nitrate concentration data, that tile drainage is a dominant control on C-Q dynamics, with increasing drainage density contributing to more chemostatic C-Q behavior. We further find that concentration variability increases, relative to discharge variability, with increasing basin size across six orders of magnitude, and this pattern is attributed to different spatial correlation structures for C and Q. Our results show how land use and river network structure jointly control riverine N export.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)