Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Previously Published Works bannerUC Davis

Nitrate and sediment fluxes from a California rangeland watershed


Long-term water quality records for assessing natural variability, impact of management, and that guide regulatory processes to safeguard water resources are rare for California oak woodland rangelands. This study presents a 20-yr record (1981-2000) of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) and suspended sediment export from a typical, grazed oak woodland watershed (103 ha) in the northern Sierra Nevada foothills of California. Mean annual precipitation over the 20-yr period was 734 mm yr(-1) (range 366-1205 mm yr(-1)). Mean annual stream flow was 353 mm y(-1) (range 87-848 mm yr(-1)). Average annual stream flow was 48.1 +/- 16% of precipitation. Mean annual NO3-N export was 1.6 kg ha(-1) yr(-1) (range 0.18-3.6 kg ha(-1) yr(-1)). Annual NO3-N export significantly (P < 0.05) increased with increasing annual stream flow and precipitation. Mean daily NO3-N export was 0.004 kg ha(-1) d(-1) (range 10(-5) to 0.55 kg ha(-1) d(-1)). Mean annual suspended sediment export was 198 kg ha(-1) yr(-1) (range 23-479 kg ha(-1) yr(-1)). There was a positive relationship (P < 0.05) between annual suspended sediment export, annual stream How and precipitation. Mean daily suspended sediment export was 0.54 kg ha(-1) d(-1) (range 10(-4) to 155 kg ha(-1) d(-1)). Virtually no sediment was exported during the dry season. The large variation in daily and annual fluxes highlights the necessity of using long-term records to establish quantitative water quality targets for rangelands and demonstrates the difficulty of designing a water quality monitoring program for these ecosystems.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View