Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Water quality of study wetlands was monitored on a monthly basis (May-September) during 1993 and 1994 both prior to and following implementation of summer fallow treatments. Variables measured included temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, apparent color, turbidity, total and volatile suspended solids, phosphorus (soluble reactive, dissolved, and total), nitrogen (ammonium, nitrate + nitrite, dissolved and total), organic carbon (dissolved and total), and major ions (Ca, Mg, Na, K, SO4, Cl, F, Br). Ratios of soluble reactive P to dissolved inorganic N (SRP:DIN), particulate P:N, and total P:N were calculated as indicators of relative P:N nutrient limitation for algae and grazers, respectively. Ratios of Cl: specific conductivity were calculated to determine whether changes in specific conductivity (and major ions) were due to simple evapotranspiration or to other biogeochemical processes. In addition, occasional diurnal measurements were made of pH, conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity using automated water quality recorders (Hydrolabs). Water quality variables were analyzed using multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVAs) to determine if any significant differences existed among treatment classes prior to treatment. Treatment and time effects for 1993-1994 were analyzed using a repeated measures design. Only differences between native prairie (NP) and restored upland (CRP) treatments, and differences due to interannual climatic variability will be discussed here.
No pretreatment differences among treatment classes were detected for any of the water quality variables analyzed (P> 0.05). Water quality data were highly variable among sites and over time, ranging over approximately two orders of magnitude for soluble reactive P, dissolved and total P, total suspended solids, Gran alkalinity, magnesium, sodium, chloride, and sulfate (Table 1). Only dissolved phosphorus, turbidity, surface dissolved oxygen, potassium, and ratios of chloride:specific conductivity and soluble reactive P: dissolved inorganic N showed significant differences between CRP and NP treatments (P> 0.05). Of these variables, all but surface D.O. and the Cl:conductivity ratio were greater on average for the CRP sites. N:P ratios showed evidence for nitrogen limitation in 1993, but shifted towards phosphorus limitation in 1994, following increases in water depth. Dissolved oxygen decreased to near zero as depth and duration of flooding increased and wetlands became stratified; however, diurnal oxygen profiles were strongly modified by vegetation structure within sites.
Water quality variable Units 1993 1994 Soluble reactive phosphorus mG P/L 0.19-3.21 <0.01-3.59 Dissolved phosphorus mG P/L 0.12-3.89 <0.02-3.63 Total phosphorus mG P/L 0.11-6.11 0.07-3.44 Particulate phosphorus mG P/L <0.02-3.16 <0.02-1.25 Nitrate-N µG N/L <28-118 <32-75 Total ammonia-N µG N/L <22-1835 <34-678 Dissolved nitrogen mG N/L 1.11-9.80 0.84-4.32 Total nitrogen mG N/L 0.99-9.62 1.01-5.07 Particulate nitrogen mG N/L <0.12-3.07 <0.30-2.09 Dissolved organic carbon mG C/L 19-138 <3.2-52 Total organic carbon mG C/L 19-130 14-54 Particulate organic carbon mG C/L <3.1-26.6 <3.6-30.4 Apparent color PCU 162-133 466-411 Turbidity NTU <1.2-332 <0.6-26.1 Total suspended solids mG/L <1-138 <1.8-107 Volatile suspended solids mG/L 1-155 1.8-87.5 Specific conductivity @ 25 C µmhos/cm 132-1097 150-2710 pH log [H+] 6.6-8.2 6.1-8.5 Gran alkalinity mG CaCO3/L 41-317 6-505 Calcium mG/L 6-101 11-119 Magnesium mG/L <1.4-64 3-189 Sodium mG/L 0.3-7.2 <0.1-208 Potassium mG/L 8-45 5-43 Sulfate mG/L 0.3-389 <2-1472 Chloride mG/L 1-14.5 0.3-13 Bromide mG/L <0.09-7.17 <0.2-0.4 Fluoride mG/L 0.05-0.24 <0.1-0.21
In conclusion, our site selection process was successful in enabling us to prevent initial biases in water quality conditions among wetland treatment classes, although high variability will limit our ability to detect treatment effects on prairie pothole water quality over time. Of the water quality variables studied, phosphorus, suspended solids, and major ions were the most variable over time and space. Temporal trends (decreased dissolved oxygen, increased N:P ratios) appeared to be linked to changing water depths. Differences in water quality between NP and CRP sites were not apparent at the beginning of the study, but increased over time, possibly because of differing hydrologic responses; this accentuates the importance of long-term ecosystem studies covering more than one growing season. Differences between NP and CRP sites suggest that historical differences in land-use treatments can have significant impacts on water quality of prairie pothole wetlands. These differences need to be considered when designing whole watershed experiments.
1. Gleason, R. A. and Euliss, N. H., Jr. (1996) Impact of agriculutral land-use on prairie wetland ecosystems: experimental design and overview. Proc. N.D. Acad. Sci. 50.