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Title Temporal and Spatial Trends in Nitrogen and Phosphorus Inputs to The Watershed of the Altamaha River
Archive All Files / Documents / Presentations / NSF Site Review 2009

The watershed of the Altamaha River, Georgia, is one of the largest in the southeastern U.S., draining 36,718 km2 (including parts of metro Atlanta). We calculated both nitrogen (fertilizer, net food and feed import, atmospheric deposition, and biological N fixation in agricultural and forest lands) and phosphorus (fertilizer and net food and feed import) inputs to the watershed for 6 time points between 1954 and 2002. Total N inputs rose from 1,943 kg N km-2 yr-1 in 1954 to a peak of 3,584 kg N km-2 yr-1 in 1982 and then declined again to 2,566 kg N km-2 yr-1 by 2002. Phosphorus inputs rose from 408 kg P km-2 yr-1 in 1954 to 531 kg P km-2 yr-1 in 1974 before also declining again, to 410 kg P km-2 yr-1 in 2002. These changes were primarily driven by agricultural inputs and were dominated by changes in fertilizer use. Fertilizer tended to be the most important input of both N and P to the watershed, although net food and feed import increased in importance over time and was the dominant source of N input by 2002. When considered on an individual basis, fertilizer input tended to be highest in the middle portions of the watershed (Little and Lower Ocmulgee and Lower Oconee sub-basins) whereas net food and feed imports were highest in the upper reaches (Upper Oconee and Upper Ocmulgee sub-basins). Although the overall trend in recent years has been towards decreases in both N and P inputs, these trends may be offset due to continuing increases in animal and human populations.

Contributors Sylvia Schaefer and Merryl Alber

Sylvia Schaefer and Merryl Alber. 2009. Temporal and Spatial Trends in Nitrogen and Phosphorus Inputs to The Watershed of the Altamaha River. Georgia Coastal Ecosystems LTER File Archive, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia. (

Key Words nitrogen budgets, nutrient inputs
File Date Oct 15, 2009 (version 1)
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959 and OCE-1237140. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.