Effects of tributary inputs on nutrient export from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico Academic Article uri icon


  • In order to better understand the seasonal patterns of nutrient loadings from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, nutrient mass balance analyses were performed for the Mississippi River system to separate the effects of primary tributary inputs from in-channel processes. Our results showed that seasonal changes in dissolved inorganic nutrients resulted from conservative mixing of primary tributaries. Maximal values of nitrate plus nitrite (NO3+2) and soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) fluxes during May through July were largely attributed to inputs from the upper Mississippi River (UMR), which was highest in NO3+2 and SRP levels and contributed more water during this period. Mass balances also showed net losses of particulate nitrogen and phosphorus (29% and 18%, respectively), with the highest values occurring during the falling stage. We speculate that one possible reason was retention of coarse suspended sediments that were mainly derived from the Missouri River. The loss of dissolved organic nitrogen and phosphorus was also apparent (12% and 20%, respectively), and the largest loss occurred during summer. This study highlights the importance of divergent processes in controlling different forms of nutrients in large rivers.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Duan, S., Bianchi, T. S., Santschi, P. H., & Amon, R.

citation count

  • 12

complete list of authors

  • Duan, Shuiwang||Bianchi, Thomas S||Santschi, Peter H||Amon, Rainer MW

publication date

  • October 2010