• Chronic nutrient inputs affect stream macroinvertebrate communities more than acute inputs: An experiment manipulating phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment

      Davis, Stephen J; O hUallachain, Daire; Mellander, Per-Erik; Matthaei, Christoph; Piggott, Jeremy; Kelly-Quinn, Mary; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2019-05-07)
      Freshwaters worldwide are affected by multiple stressors. Timing of inputs and pathways of delivery can influence the impact stressors have on freshwater communities. In particular, effects of point versus diffuse nutrient inputs on stream macroinvertebrates are poorly understood. Point-source inputs tend to pose a chronic problem, whereas diffuse inputs tend to be acute with short concentration spikes. We manipulated three key agricultural stressors, phosphorus (ambient, chronic, acute), nitrogen (ambient, chronic, acute) and fine sediment (ambient, high), in 112 stream mesocosms (26 days colonisation, 18 days of manipulations) and determined the individual and combined effects of these stressors on stream macroinvertebrate communities (benthos and drift). Chronic nutrient treatments continuously received high concentrations of P and/or N. Acute channels received the same continuous enrichment, but concentrations were doubled during two 3-hour periods (day 6, day 13) to simulate acute nutrient inputs during rainstorms. Sediment was the most pervasive stressor in the benthos, reducing total macroinvertebrate abundance and richness, EPT (mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies) abundance and richness. By contrast, N or P enrichment did not affect any of the six studied community-level metrics. In the drift assemblage, enrichment effects became more prevalent the longer the experiment went on. Sediment was the dominant driver of drift responses at the beginning of the experiment. After the first acute nutrient pulse, sediment remained the most influential stressor but its effects started to fade. After the second pulse, N became the dominant stressor. In general, impacts of either N or P on the drift were due to chronic exposure, with acute nutrient pulses having no additional effects. Overall, our findings imply that cost-effective management should focus on mitigating sediment inputs first and tackle chronic nutrient inputs second. Freshwater managers should also take into account the length of exposure to high nutrient concentrations, rather than merely the concentrations themselves.
    • Incidental nutrient transfers: Assessing critical times in agricultural catchments using high-resolution data

      Shore, Mairead; Jordan, Philip; Melland, Alice R.; Mellander, Per-Erik; McDonald, Noeleen T.; Shortle, Ger; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Elsevier, 2016-03-22)
      Managing incidental losses associated with liquid slurry applications during closed periods has significant cost and policy implications and the environmental data required to review such a measure are difficult to capture due to storm dependencies. Over four years (2010–2014) in five intensive agricultural catchments, this study used high-resolution total and total reactive phosphorus (TP and TRP), total oxidised nitrogen (TON) and suspended sediment (SS) concentrations with river discharge data to investigate the magnitude and timing of nutrient losses. A large dataset of storm events (defined as 90th percentile discharges), and associated flow-weighted mean (FWM) nutrient concentrations and TP/SS ratios, was used to indicate when losses were indicative of residual or incidental nutrient transfers. The beginning of the slurry closed period was reflective of incidental and residual transfers with high storm FWM P (TP and TRP) concentrations, with some catchments also showing elevated storm TP:SS ratios. This pattern diminished at the end of the closed period in all catchments. Total oxidised N behaved similarly to P during storms in the poorly drained catchments and revealed a long lag time in other catchments. Low storm FWM P concentrations and TP:SS ratios during the weeks following the closed period suggests that nutrients either weren't applied during this time (best times chosen) or that they were applied to less risky areas (best places chosen). For other periods such as late autumn and during wet summers, where storm FWM P concentrations and TP:SS ratios were high, it is recommended that an augmentation of farmer knowledge of soil drainage characteristics with local and detailed current and forecast soil moisture conditions will help to strengthen existing regulatory frameworks to avoid storm driven incidental nutrient transfers.
    • A rapid and multi-element method for the analysis of major nutrients in grass (Lolium perenne) using energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy

      Daly, Karen M.; Fenelon, A. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 21/04/2017)
      Elemental analysis of grass (Lolium perenne) is essential in agriculture to ensure grass quality and animal health. Energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) spectroscopy is a rapid, multi-element alternative to current methods using acid digestion and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). Percentage phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca), determined from grass samples using EDXRF, were within 0.035, 0.319, 0.025 and 0.061, respectively, of ICP-OES values. Concordance correlation coefficients computed using agreement statistics ranged from 0.4379 to 0.9669 (values close to one indicate excellent agreement); however, the level of agreement for each element depended on the calibrations used in EDXRF. Empirical calibrations gave excellent agreement for percentage P, K and Ca, but moderate agreement for percentage Mg due to a weaker correlation between standards and intensities. Standardless calibration using the fundamental parameters (FP) approach exhibited bias, with consistently lower values reported for percentage P and Mg, when compared with ICP-OES methods. The relationship between the methods was plotted as scatter plots with the line of equality included, and although correlation coefficients indicated strong relationships, these statistics masked the effects of consistent bias in the data for percentage P and Mg. These results highlight the importance of distinguishing agreement from correlation when using statistical methods to compare methods of analysis. Agreement estimates improved when a matching library of grass samples was added to the FP method. EDXRF is a comparable alternative to conventional methods for grass analysis when samples of similar matrix type are used as empirical standards or as a matching library.
    • The short-term effects of management changes on watertable position and nutrients in shallow groundwater in a harvested peatland forest

      Finnegan, Joanne; Regan, J. T.; Fenton, Owen; Lanigan, Gary; Brennan, Raymond B.; Healy, Mark G.; Environmental Protection Agency; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Elsevier, 08/05/2014)
      Management changes such as drainage, fertilisation, afforestation and harvesting (clearfelling) of forested peatlands influence watertable (WT) position and groundwater concentrations of nutrients. This study investigated the impact of clearfelling of a peatland forest on WT and nutrient concentrations. Three areas were examined: (1) a regenerated riparian peatland buffer (RB) clearfelled four years prior to the present study (2) a recently clearfelled coniferous forest (CF) and (3) a standing, mature coniferous forest (SF), on which no harvesting took place. The WT remained consistently below 0.3 m during the pre-clearfelling period. Results showed there was an almost immediate rise in the WT after clearfelling and a rise to 0.15 m below ground level (bgl) within 10 months of clearfelling. Clearfelling of the forest increased dissolved reactive phosphorus concentrations (from an average of 28–230 μg L−1) in the shallow groundwater, likely caused by leaching from degrading brash mats.