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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Phosphorus supply and floodplain design govern phosphorus reduction capacity in remediated agricultural streams

Hallberg, Lukas; Djodjic, Faruk; Bieroza, Magdalena


Agricultural headwater streams are important pathways for diffuse sediment and nutrient losses, requiring mitigation strategies beyond in-field measures to intercept the transport of pollutants to downstream freshwater resources. As such, floodplains can be constructed along existing agricultural streams and ditches to improve fluvial stability and promote deposition of sediments and particulate phosphorus. In this study, we evaluated 10 remediated agricultural streams in Sweden for their capacity to reduce sediment and particulate phosphorus export and investigated the interplay between fluvial processes and phosphorus dynamics. Remediated streams with different floodplain designs (either on one side or both sides of the channel, with different width and elevation) were paired with upstream trapezoidal channels as controls. We used sedimentation plates to determine seasonal patterns in sediment deposition on channel beds and floodplains and monthly water quality monitoring. This was combined with continuous flow discharge measurements to examine suspended sediment and particulate phosphorus dynamics and reduction along reaches. Remediated streams with floodplains on both sides of the channel reduced particulate phosphorus concentrations and loads ( - 54 mu g L - 1 , - 0.21 kg ha - 1 yr - 1 ) along reaches, whereas increases occurred along streams with one-sided floodplains (27 mu g L - 1 , 0.09 kg ha - 1 yr - 1 ) and control streams (46.6 mu g L - 1 ). Sediment deposition in remediated streams was five times higher on channel beds than on floodplains and there was no evident lateral distribution of sediments from channel to floodplains. There was no effect from sediment deposition on particulate phosphorus reduction, suggesting that bank stabilization was the key determinant for phosphorus mitigation in remediated streams, which can be realized with two-sided but not one-sided floodplains. Further, the overall narrow floodplain widths likely restricted reach-scale sediment deposition and its impact on P reductions. To fully understand remediated streams' potential for reductions in both nitrogen and different phosphorus species and to avoid pollution swapping effects, there is a need to further investigate how floodplain design can be optimized to achieve a holistic solution towards improved stream water quality.

Published in

Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
2024, Volume: 28, number: 2, pages: 341–355