Measuring Phosphorus Release in Laboratory Microcosms for Water Quality Assessment.


United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), Institute for Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management; [Email]


Phosphorus (P) is a critical limiting nutrient in agroecosystems requiring careful management to reduce transport risk to aquatic environments. Routine laboratory measures of P bioavailability are based on chemical extractions performed on dried samples under oxidizing conditions. While useful, these tests are limited with respect to characterizing P release under prolonged water saturation. Labile orthophosphate bound to oxidized iron and other metals can rapidly desorb to solution in reducing environments, increasing P mobilization risk to surface runoff and groundwater. To better quantify P desorption potential and mobility during extended saturation, a laboratory microcosm method was developed based on repeated sampling of porewater and overlying floodwater over time. The method is useful for quantifying P release potential from soils and sediments varying in physicochemical properties and can improve site-specific P mitigation efforts by better characterizing P release risk in hydrologically active areas. Advantages of the method include its ability to simulate in situ dynamics, simplicity, low cost, and flexibility.

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