U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Science Advisory Board
Background Information

Document NameSuspended sediment, C, N, P, and Si yields from the Mississippi River Basin.
Document AuthorTurner, R.E.
Rabalais, N.N.
Short Description Hydrobiologia 511: 79-89.
CategorySubgroup 2: Characterization of Nutrient Fate-Transport-Sources
Publication Year2004

Abstract: The annual loads of C, N, P, silicate, total suspended sediment ( mass) and their yields ( mass area(-1)) were estimated for six watersheds of the Mississippi River Basin (MRB) using water quality and water discharge records for 1973 to 1994. The highest load of suspended sediments is from the Missouri watershed (58 mt km(2) yr(-1)), which is also the largest among the six major sub-basins. The Ohio watershed delivers the largest load of water (38%). The Upper Mississippi has the largest total nitrogen load (32%) and yield (1120 kg TN km(2) yr(-1)). The loading of organic carbon, total phosphorus and silicate from the Upper Mississippi and Ohio watersheds are similar and relatively high (range 2.1 - 2.5, 0.068 - 0.076, and 0.8 - 1.1 mt km(2) yr(-1), respectively). The yields of suspended sediments, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and silicate from the Lower Mississippi watershed are disproportionately the highest for its area, which is the smallest of all the watersheds and has the weakest monitoring network. The loading from the Red and Arkansas watersheds are of lesser importance than the others for most parameters investigated. The total nitrogen loading to coastal waters increased an additional 150% since the early 1900s, and is now dominated by loads from the Upper Mississippi watershed, rather than the previously dominant Ohio watershed. An analysis of trends for 1973 - 1994 suggests variability among years, rather than uni-directional change for most variables among 11 key stations. Explanatory relationships were established or confirmed to describe TN and TP loadings in terms of the now largely human-created landscape arising mostly over the last 150 years.