In-Stream Nutrient Flux and Retention in Relation to Land Use in the Llobregat River Basin

  • Rosana AguileraEmail author
  • Sergi Sabater
  • Rafael Marcé
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 21)


The Llobregat as well as other streams and rivers elsewhere transports and transforms nutrients, regulating nutrient export downstream. The most common approach is to study nutrient in-stream processes at the reach level, but a correct understanding of their role on nutrient cycling in the watershed requires taking the perspective of the entire river network. Considering the complexity and the spatial scale of the Llobregat River network, modeling tools are useful to determine the sources and the processes by which nutrients are transported at the basin scale. In this chapter, we apply a hybrid process-based and statistical model (SPARROW, SPAtially Referenced Regression On Watershed attributes) to the Llobregat River basin in order to estimate the annual nitrate and phosphate loads that reach the drainage network. The model allows emphasizing the description of the in-stream processes that affect nutrient transport and retention in the Llobregat, and it might be useful in other impaired rivers as well. Although forests and grasslands are the predominant land cover types in the Llobregat basin, activities related to the presence of agricultural land and human agglomerations cause impairment in water quality and alter the natural flow. Increased exported nutrient load and decreased in-stream nutrient removal coincide in the downstream direction, probably due to the significant chemical and geomorphological changes in the lower Llobregat River basin.


Basin scale In-stream removal Modeling Nutrients 



Results in this chapter were funded by project SCARCE (assessing and predicting effects on water quantity and quality in Iberian rivers caused by global change) Consolider-Ingenio CSD2009-00065.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA)Scientific and Technological Park of the University of GironaGironaSpain

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