Seasonal Fluxes of Dissolved Nutrients in Streams of Catchments Dominated by Swidden Agriculture in the Maya Forest of Belize, Central America

Academic Article


  • The biogeochemistry of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in tropical streams and rivers is strongly regulated by the pronounced seasonality of rainfall and associated changes in hydrology. Land use and land cover change (LULCC) can also be a dominant driver of changes in stream biogeochemistry yet responses are not fully understood and vary across different LULCC scenarios. We measured dissolved and total nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations in four tributary streams of the Temash River watershed in southern Belize, Central America. The dominant land use practice in each of the four study catchments was swidden agriculture. We documented a strong seasonal control on the export of nutrients from these study systems with daily N fluxes increasing approximately 10-fold during the onset of the rainy season. P fluxes increased almost 4-fold during the same time period. Comparisons with nutrient export coefficients from other tropical streams suggest that nutrient export in streams of the Temash River watershed is similar or slightly lower. Establishing improved understanding of the terrestrial and hydrologic controls of N and P transport across the terrestrial-aquatic boundary and developing a comprehensive nutrient budget that includes inputs and outputs associated with crop production is warranted in future work.
  • Authors

  • Buck, David
  • Esselman, Peter C
  • Jiang, Shiguo
  • Wainwright, Joel D
  • Brenner, Mark
  • Cohen, Matthew J
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • April 2019
  • Published In


  • Belize
  • Temash River
  • flood pulse
  • seasonal
  • stream nutrients
  • tropical streams
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 664
  • End Page

  • 664
  • Volume

  • 11
  • Issue

  • 4