Attenuation of Non-Point Source Nitrogen Pollution in a Coastal Watershed: Implications for Nutrient Management

EPA Grant Number: R830652
Title: Attenuation of Non-Point Source Nitrogen Pollution in a Coastal Watershed: Implications for Nutrient Management
Investigators: Piehler, Michael F. , Whalen, Stephen C. , Band, L. R. , Paerl, Hans
Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 20, 2003 through January 19, 2006 (Extended to January 19, 2007)
Project Amount: $737,555
RFA: Nutrient Science for Improved Watershed Management (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Watersheds


The Neuse River Estuary has shown symptoms of eutrophication throughout the past two decades that have been linked to anthropogenic nitrogen pollution. At least 75% of the total nitrogen load to the estuary has been traced to non-point sources. Varied and evolving land use within the watershed affects the quantities and types of non-point source nitrogen transported to surface waters. Non-point source nitrogen is introduced to estuaries through both distant and proximate sources.

Objective:We will investigate the transport and transformation of non-point source nitrogen from adjacent agricultural and forested lands to the estuary.


We will gather land-use specific data on transformation and export of nitrogen from various sources to the estuary in agricultural and forested sub-watersheds of the Neuse River Estuary. Particular attention will be paid to processes that either transform or remove non-point source nitrogen being transported to the estuary. Information on land use specific nitrogen transformations will then be related to physical, chemical and biological data for the Neuse River Estuary and Pamlico Sound. All of the data will then be organized into a process based spatial model to predict the quantity and form of nitrogen delivered to the estuary.

Expected Results:

We anticipate generating a rigorous analysis of the dynamics of non-point source nitrogen transport for various land uses in the Neuse River Estuary basin. Ultimately, the experimental and field measurements will provide data to construct a model of attenuation of proximate non-point source nitrogen that will be adaptable and applicable to other watersheds. This will provide criteria for applying equitable and source-specific input controls for non-point source nitrogen, in order to meet Total Maximum Daily Loads and other nutrient reduction targets.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 23 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 8 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

chemical transport, estuary, ecological effects, ecosystem, Midatlantic, agriculture., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Water & Watershed, Environmental Chemistry, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Aquatic Ecosystem, Water Quality Monitoring, Environmental Monitoring, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Ecological Risk Assessment, Atmosphere, Watersheds, anthropogenic processes, nutrient transport, anthropogenic stress, bioassessment, watershed classification, biodiversity, watershed management, ecosystem monitoring, nutrient flux, conservation, biota diversity, diagnostic indicators, ecosystem indicators, Mystic Lake, aquatic ecosystems, water quality, bioindicators, watershed sustainablility, biological indicators, ecosystem stress, watershed assessment, nitrogen uptake, conservation planning, aquatic biota, land use, restoration planning, watershed restoration

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • 2005 Progress Report
  • Final