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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


This study aimed to understand the spatiotemporal variation of nutrient concentrations in stream water, using analyses of total nitrogen (TN), NO3-N, NH4+-N and total phosphorus (TP) concentrations from April to October in 2016 in the upper Shule River basin in the northeastern margin of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN; NO3-N + NH4+-N) concentrations in both groundwater and stream water were the predominant form of TN, accounting for about 88%. Median concentrations in stream water were 815 μg L−1 for TN, 459 μg L−1 for NO3-N, 253 μg L−1 for NH4+-N, and 25 μg L−1 for TP. Great spatiotemporal variations of nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in stream water were observed, which likely resulted from varying recharge sources (snow and groundwater) and biogeochemical processes. Monthly variations in nutrient concentrations in stream water had a reciprocal pattern between nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations. Our results demonstrated that the quality of steam water in the upper reach of Shule River basin was basically good for drinking purposes according to the environmental quality standards for surface water, China. The results also improved our understanding of how nutrient concentrations varied in stream water and provided baseline information for future studies on nutrients in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

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