Linking Land-use, Water Body Type and Water Quality in Southern New Zealand

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Land-use and vegetation cover have been linked to the nutrient levels (nitrogen, phosphorus) of surface waters in several countries. However, the links generally relate to streams and rivers, or to specific types of standing water, for example shallow lakes in a geologically defined region. We measured physical variables and nutrient chemistry of 45 water bodies representative of the wide range of lentic wetland environments (swamps, riverine wetlands, estuaries, reservoirs, shallow lakes, deep lakes) in Otago, New Zealand, and related these to catchment variables and land-use in order to assess the potential influence of catchment modification on water quality of these diverse wetlands. Catchment boundaries and land cover were derived from maps using ArcView GIS software. Our predictions that concentrations of nutrients and other components of water quality would correlate positively with the nature and intensity of catchment modification were confirmed in multivariate analyses. Physical and chemical measures were positively related to the extent of modification in the catchment (percentage of the catchment in pasture, planted forest, scrub and urban areas), and negatively related to lack of catchment modification (more of the catchment in bare ground, tussock grassland and indigenous forest). The strong negative correlations between nutrient concentrations, suspended sediment, water colour and the percentage of tussock cover in the catchment imply that increased conversion of the native tussock grassland to pastoral farming in Otago will increase nutrient concentrations and reduce water quality of the diverse lentic ecosystems.

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