Surface runoff contribution of nitrogen during storm events in a forested watershed


We examined total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) loading to a small forested stream during storm events. We hypothesized that upper soil and litter layers in riparian area are primary source of higher TKN concentrations during storm. A storm water sampling program was carried out to gather requisite flow and water quality data to calibrate and validate water and nutrient components of the Riparian Ecosystem Management Model for TKN. Water quality and storm flow data collected from January 2000 to December 2003 were used to simulate the hydrology and nitrogen transport over a second-order watershed within the Fort Benning Military Installation, Georgia. Intensive sampling conducted from October 2002 to May 2003 provided the necessary data to characterize the rising limb, peak, and recession limb of six major storm events. Simulated runoff and storm TKN loads were compared with their corresponding observed or calculated values. Hydrology and nitrogen data collected from February 21, 2003 to December 31, 2003 were used for the model validation. The hydrology component of the model showed a Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency of 87% for the validation period. The average absolute difference between simulated and calculated TKN loads was 25%. Even though the monthly water budget indicated the dominance of subsurface flow, TKN contribution from direct runoff was significantly greater than that from subsurface flow. On an average, 73% of the observed total TKN load at the watershed outlet was contributed by surface runoff during storm events. The results suggested that the surface runoff during the storm events washed off the nitrogen from the forest floor and transported to the stream.


Earth Systems Research Center

Publication Date


Journal Title




Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type



© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007