Drivers of nitrogen and phosphorus dynamics in a groundwater-fed urban catchment revealed by high-frequency monitoring

Liang Yu*, Joachim C. Rozemeijer, Hans Peter Broers, Boris M. Van Breukelen, Jack J. Middelburg, Maarten Ouboter, Ype Van Der Velde

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Eutrophication of water bodies has been a problem causing severe degradation of water quality in cities. To gain mechanistic understanding of the temporal dynamics of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in a groundwater-fed lowlying urban polder, we applied high-frequency monitoring in Geuzenveld, a polder in the city of Amsterdam. The highfrequency monitoring equipment was installed at the pumping station where water leaves the polder. From March 2016 to June 2017, total phosphorus (TP), ammonium (NH4), turbidity, electrical conductivity (EC), and water temperature were measured at intervals of less than 20 min. This paper discusses the results at three timescales: Annual scale, rain event scale, and single pumping event scale. Mixing of upwelling groundwater (main source of N and P) and runoff from precipitation on pavements and roofs was the dominant hydrological process governing the temporal pattern of the EC, while N and P fluxes from the polder were also regulated by primary production and iron transformations. In our groundwater-seepage controlled catchment, NH4 appeared to be the dominant form of N with surface water concentrations in the range of 2-6 mgNL-1, which stems from production in an organic-rich subsurface. The concentrations of NH4 in the surface water were governed by the mixing process in autumn and winter and were reduced down to 0.1 mgNL-1 during the algal growing season in spring. The depletion of dissolved NH4 in spring suggests uptake by primary producers, consistent with high concentrations of chlorophyll a, O2, and suspended solids during this period. Total P and turbidity were high during winter (range 0.5-2.5 mg P L-1 and 200-1800 FNU, respectively, where FNU represents Formazin Nephelometric Unit) due to the release of P and reduced iron from anoxic sediment to the water column, where Fe2C was rapidly oxidized and precipitated as iron oxides which contributed to turbidity. In the other seasons, P is retained in the sediment by sorption to precipitated iron oxides. Nitrogen is exported from the polder to the receiving waters throughout the whole year, mostly in the form of NH4 but in the form of organic N in spring. P leaves the polder mainly during winter, primarily associated with Fe(OH)3 colloids and as dissolved P. Based on this new understanding of the dynamics of N and P in this low-lying urban catchment, we suggested management strategies that may effectively control and reduce eutrophication in urban polders and receiving downstream waters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-87
Number of pages19
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2021


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