Many streams in the US are impaired because of high Soluble Reactive Phosphorus (SRP) contributions from agriculture. However, the drivers of ecological processes that lead to SRP loss in baseflow from groundwater are not sufficiently understood to design effective Best Management Practices (BMPs).

The authors examine how soil temperature and water table depth influence the SRP concentrations in groundwater for a dairy farm in a valley bottom in the Catskills (NY, USA). Measured SRP concentrations in groundwater and baseflow were greater during the fall, when soil temperatures are warmer, than during winter and spring. The observed concentrations were within the bounds predicted by groundwater temperatures using the Arrhenius equation, except during fall, when concentrations rose above these predictions.

These elevated concentrations were likely caused by mineralization and consequent accumulation of phosphorus (P) in summer. In addition, SRP concentrations were greater in near-stream areas, where water tables where higher. In short, SRP concentrations are dependent on temperature, demonstrating the importance of understanding the underlying mechanism of ecological processes. In addition, results suggest BMPs that apply manure on land having a deep groundwater, instead of on land with a shallow water table will lower overall SRP contributions.

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