Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016AL175B

Integrating Remote Sensing and Biogeochemical Characterizations at High Resolutions to Determine Source and Amount of inorganic and Organic Nutrients Exported From Agricultural Watersheds

Institute: Alabama
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $22,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $44,828

Principal Investigators: Yuehan Lu, Eben Broadbent

Abstract: As stated in the RFP for this proposal call, Water quality concerns for surface water supplies include both point-source and non-point source contamination. Studies are needed to develop techniques to correlate land use and pollution loads from agricultural, industrial and urban non-point sources and to determine the effects of BMP's on water quantity and quality. This work directly addresses this need by: 1) determining organic and inorganic nutrient loads from agricultural watersheds across hydrological regimes; and 2) identifying non-point sources and evaluating their relative importance through concurrent characterizations of watersheds and stream biogeochemistry at multiple spatial and temporal resolutions. Furthermore, the 2013 report Mapping the Future of Alabama Water Resources Management: Policy Options and Recommendations published by Alabama Water Agencies Working Group highlights the need to link water quality to water quantity and to ecological functions. Recommendations for relevant research are proposed and reiterated in the report, including stakeholder comments, descriptions of tasks for Technical and Focus Panel tracks to an initial statewide water management plan and implementation, as well as considerations from comparing instream flow policies in Alabama and surrounding states. This need echoes recent scientific literature highlighting the significance in elucidating the linkages between hydrological variation and the mechanisms regulating nutrient transport via streams and rivers. This project will elucidate the connectivity between water quantity, water quality, and ecological functions by employing two strategies: 1) continuous, real-time monitoring of parameters capturing simultaneous variation in hydrology and organic nutrient loads; 2) collecting representative samples across hydrological regimes and seasons for more sophisticated laboratory analysis of the quantity, form, and quality of inorganic and organic nutrients. Lastly, this project is also unique for incorporating dissolved organic matter (DOM), a component that has long been ignored despite its significance in maintaining healthy qualities for drinking water and biological habitats. DOM in water may be considered as a Master Variable regulating a suite of biogeochemical processes, such as attenuating ultraviolet-B penetration to aquatic biota, influencing the forms and mobility of ecotoxins and pollutants, and providing basal substrate and energy to heterotrophic food webs. More importantly, DOM may play an important role in hypoxia (dissolved oxygen < 2mg/L), which has plagued the Gulf of Mexico for last several decades. Specifically, in Alabama, hypoxia has been observed in the Mobile Bay since the 1970s,degrading habitats of numerous aquatic species and causing negative changes in food webs of economic importance. Models largely based on conventional mechanisms primarily identifying the importance of inorganic nutrients were not successful in predicting the magnitude or areal distribution of hypoxia. As such the role of fluvial organic matter in contributing to hypoxia needs to be further assessed. This project will contribute to the still very limited body of scientific research on this topic, demonstrating Alabamas commitment to cutting-edge water resource research.