Long-term trends in nitrate and chloride in streams in an exurban watershed

Emma S. Castiblanco, Peter M. Groffman, Jonathan Duncan, Lawrence E. Band, Edward Doheny, Gary T. Fisher, Emma Rosi, Amanda K. Suchy

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1 Scopus citations


The lines between natural areas and human habitats have blurred as urbanization continues, creating a need for the study of ecosystems at all levels of development. This need is particularly acute for exurban environments, which have low population density but are rapidly changing and have a dynamic mix of natural and human-dominated features. We examined long-term (1998–2018) trends in nitrate and chloride concentrations and fluxes in forested and exurban streams in Baltimore County, Md USA. Concentrations and fluxes of nitrate and chloride were an order of magnitude higher in the exurban stream than the forested stream and were increasing even though snowfall and road salt use did not increase over the study period. In the forested stream, concentrations and fluxes of chloride increased from 1998 to 2008, but decreased from 2008 to 2018 due to unquantified factors. Concentrations of nitrate decreased in the forested stream, likely due to decreases in atmospheric deposition. These decreases in atmospheric deposition, and efforts to reduce fertilizer use by county governments, do not appear to have affected nitrate concentrations and fluxes in the exurban watershed. Any efforts to reduce the concentrations and fluxes of chloride and nitrate in exurban streams will likely benefit substantially from further understanding of the mechanisms underlying the temporal patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)831-844
Number of pages14
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies

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