Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Environmental and Urban Studies
Project Advisor 1
M. Elias Dueker
Biogeochemical cycles mitigate the movement of nutrients through ecosystems at a variety of scales. Within aquatic systems, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are especially critical due to their high influence on primary production and decomposition. However, in excess, N and P can pose hazardous ecological effects downstream. Excessive loading of both N and P to waterways can facilitate harmful algal blooms or dead zones in reservoirs and at drainage points. Extensive research over the past half century has shown that the majority of nutrient loading to aquatic systems is the result of anthropogenic land use. While the effects of these anthropogenic nutrient loads have been extensively explored at large scales, the interplay between nutrients and land use in small watershed systems remains poorly understood. To better comprehend this relationship, I compiled both historical and recent water quality data observed along the Saw Kill Creek in Dutchess County, New York. I then paired site-based nitrate (NO3–) readings to the total area of three classes of land cover at three separate drainage scales for each sampling site, and ran linear regressions expressing NO3– concentration as a function of increasing land cover gradient. The data reveal that urban development within the watershed at the largest scale of drainage shows a significant positive correlation with increasing concentrations of NO3–. This observed relationship should result in a focal emphasis on future development projects with regard to mitigating any potential NO3– issues in the Saw Kill watershed. In addition, I have shown that the Saw Kill’s status as a high-nitrate stream is likely untrue, and that effort should be put into maintaining a consistent sampling regime to ensure that NO3– concentrations continue to be well documented. Future studies should focus on extending land cover data into past years in order to model changes to local land cover through time. In addition, further research is required to more adequately discern the relationship between NO3– in the Saw Kill and precipitation regimes for a better understanding of flushing and dilution effects within this watershed.
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Spodek, Marco Sebastian, "Nitrate Loading in the Saw Kill Watershed: small watershed nutrient dynamics, answering a community question, and assessing methodological approaches" (2017). Senior Projects Spring 2017. 18.
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