Spatially distributed lateral nitrate transport at the catchment scale

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Received for publication January 23, 2009. In river catchments, N transformation and storage processes during lateral transport are important in controlling N loads of surface waters. There is a lack of approaches which capture lateral flows and associated N transformation in a spatially distributed way. The aim of this paper is to develop a new conceptual N transport and transformation model which simulates the lateral nitrate transport in subsurface flow from the source area to the receiving water body. The developed tool is based on the object modeling system (OMS) framework and consists of the analytical spatially distributed hydrological model J2000, the nitrate recharge model Meta Candy and a new groundwater N routing component. Nitrate degradation in groundwater is calculated stoichiometrically according to a predefined amount on oxidizable substrate. The new modeling approach was tested in a small agricultural lower mountain range catchment of Thuringia, Germany. The calibration of the N model using a 4-yr period showed reasonable results for nitrate load calculations with a Nash and Sutcliff coefficient of 0.78. The 3-yr validation period produced Nash-Sutcliff (NS) values of 0.75. There was a clear relationship of the goodness-of-fit between the hydrological simulations and the nitrate concentration calculations. Due to short residence times of the interflow nitrate degradation was restricted to slow base flow components. The new approach can be used to target N source areas within a catchment and assess the impact of these source areas on the N load of surface waters in a spatially distributed manner.

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