Nutrient budgets in a dry heathland watershed in northeastern Spain

Cristina M. Belillas, Ferran Rodà

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Dissolved nutrient inputs in bulk precipitation and outputs in streamwater were measured during 3 years of contrasting hydrological conditions in a 6.3-ha, grazed heathland watershed on schists in the Montseny mountains (NE Spain), drained by an intermittent stream. On average, 39% of the precipitation became streamflow. Bulk precipitation delivered positive net alkalinity (mean 0.22 keq/ha/yr), sulphate input was moderate (9.0 kg SO4-S/ha/yr), and the mean input of inorganic N was not exceptionally high (6.6 kg/ha/yr). Ion concentrations were relatively low in streamwater; SO42- was the dominant anion. Most concentrations in streamwater varied seasonally, with maxima in late summer or early autumn and minima in spring. This pattern probably resulted from increased availability of ions for leaching due to decomposition of organic matter and chemical weathering during the warm period. Nitrate concentrations were relatively high in winter and dropped sharply in early spring, probably because of biological uptake. Annual element outputs in streamwater varied between years and seemed to be controlled by both the amount of annual streamflow and its seasonal distribution. Annual inputs exceeded outputs for dissolved inorganic N. The watershed accumulated H+ and Ca2+, had net losses of Na+ and Mg2+, and was close to steady state for K+, SO42-, Cl- and alkalinity. The chloride budgets gave no evidence of substantial dry deposition in this system. The cationic denudation rate was negative (-0.14 keq/ha/yr) because Ca2+ retention was higher than net exports of Na+ and Mg2+ from silicate weathering. Low nutrient export and little production of alkalinity suggest that this watershed has a low buffering capacity. © 1991 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-157
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1991


  • Cytisus scoparius
  • alkalinity
  • atmospheric deposition
  • cationic denudation rate
  • heathland
  • nutrient cycling
  • precipitation chemistry
  • streamwater chemistry
  • water quality


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