Anthropogenic and catchment characteristic signatures in the water quality of Swiss rivers: a quantitative assessment

Botter, Martina; Burlando, Paolo; Fatichi, Simone

The hydrological and biogeochemical response of rivers carries information about solute sources, pathways, and transformations in the catchment. We investigate long-term water quality data of 11 Swiss catchments with the objective to discern the influence of major catchment characteristics and anthropic activities on delivery of solutes in stream water. Magnitude, trends, and seasonality of water quality samplings of different solutes are evaluated and compared across catchments. Subsequently, the empirical dependence between concentration and discharge is used to classify the solute behaviors.

While the anthropogenic impacts are clearly detectable in the concentration of certain solutes (i.e., Na+, Cl, NO3, DRP), the influence of single catchment characteristics such as geology (e.g., on Ca2+ and H4SiO4), topography (e.g., on DOC, TOC, and TP), and size (e.g., on DOC and TOC) is only sometimes visible, which is also because of the limited sample size and the spatial heterogeneity within catchments. Solute variability in time is generally smaller than discharge variability and the most significant trends in time are due to temporal variations of anthropogenic rather than natural forcing. The majority of solutes show dilution with increasing discharge, especially geogenic species, while sediment-bonded solutes (e.g., total phosphorous and organic carbon species) show higher concentrations with increasing discharge. Both natural and anthropogenic factors affect the biogeochemical response of streams, and, while the majority of solutes show identifiable behaviors in individual catchments, only a minority of behaviors can be generalized across the 11 catchments that exhibit different natural, climatic, and anthropogenic features.



Botter, Martina / Burlando, Paolo / Fatichi, Simone: Anthropogenic and catchment characteristic signatures in the water quality of Swiss rivers: a quantitative assessment. 2019. Copernicus Publications.


Rechteinhaber: Martina Botter et al.

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