Quantification of the water budget and nutrient loading in a small peatland

Judy Z. Drexler, Barbara L. Bedford, Arthur T. DeGaetano, Donald I. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Few water budgets exist for specific types of wetlands such as peatlands, even though such information provides the basis from which to investigate linkages between wetlands and upland ecosystems. In this study, we first determined the water budget and then estimated nutrient loading from an upland farm field into a 1.5 ha, kettle-block peatland. The wetland contains highly anisotropic peat and has no distinct, active layer of groundwater flow. We estimated the depth of the active layer using Fick's law of diffusion and quantified groundwater flow using a chemical mass balance model. Evapotranspiration was determined using MORECS, a semi-physical model based on the Penman-Monteith approach. Precipitation and surface outflow were measured using physical means. Groundwater provided the major inflow, 84 percent (44,418 m3) in 1993 and 88 percent (68,311 m3) in 1994. Surface outflow represented 54 percent (28,763 m3) of total outflows in 1993 and 48 percent (37,078 m3) in 1994. A comparison of several published water budgets for wetlands and lakes showed that error estimates for hydrologic components in this study are well within the range of error estimates calculated in other studies. Groundwater inflow estimates and nutrient concentrations of three springs were used to estimate agricultural nutrient loading to the site. During the study period nutrient loading into the peatland via groundwater discharge averaged 24.74 kg K ha-1, 1.83 kg total inorganic P ha-1, and 21.81 kg NO3-N ha-1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-769
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1999


  • Agriculture
  • Chemical mass balance
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Ground water
  • Nutrient loading
  • Peatland hydrology
  • Water budget
  • Wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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