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Lixia Liao

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Process-based modeling of regional NO3− fluxes to groundwater is critical for understanding and managing water quality, but the complexity of NO3− reactive transport processes make implementation a challenge. This study introduces a regional vertical flux method (VFM) for efficient estimation of reactive transport of NO3− in the vadose zone and groundwater. The regional VFM was applied to 443 well samples in central-eastern Wisconsin. Chemical measurements included O2, NO3−, N2 from denitrification, and atmospheric tracers of groundwater age including carbon-14, chlorofluorocarbons, tritium, and tritiogenic helium. VFM results were consistent with observed chemistry, and calibrated parameters were in-line with estimates...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Water Resources Research
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Nitrate contamination of groundwater in agricultural areas poses a major challenge to the sustainability of water resources. Aquifer vulnerability models are useful tools that can help resource managers identify areas of concern, but quantifying nitrogen (N) inputs in such models is challenging, especially at large spatial scales. We sought to improve regional nitrate (NO3−) input functions by characterizing unsaturated zone NO3− transport to groundwater through use of surrogate, machine-learning metamodels of a process-based N flux model. The metamodels used boosted regression trees (BRTs) to relate mappable landscape variables to parameters and outputs of a previous “vertical flux method” (VFM) applied at sampled...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Journal of Hydrology
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Widespread nitrate contamination of groundwater in agricultural areas poses a major challenge to sustainable water resources. Efficient analysis of nitrate fluxes across large regions also remains difficult. This study introduces a method of characterizing nitrate transport processes continuously across regional unsaturated zones and groundwater based on surrogate, machine-learning metamodels of an N flux process-based model. The metamodels used boosted regression trees (BRTs) to relate mappable variables to parameters and outputs of a “vertical flux method” (VFM) applied in the Fox-Wolf-Peshtigo (FWP) area in Wisconsin. In this context, the metamodels are upscaling the VFM results throughout the region, and the...
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Understanding how nitrogen fluxes respond to changes in agriculture and climate is important for improving water quality. In the midwestern United States, expansion of corn cropping for ethanol production led to increasing N application rates in the 2000s during a period of extreme variability of annual precipitation. To examine the effects of these changes, surface water quality was analyzed in 10 major Iowa Rivers. Several decades of concentration and flow data were analyzed with a statistical method that provides internally consistent estimates of the concentration history and reveals flow-normalized trends that are independent of year-to-year streamflow variations. Flow-normalized concentrations of nitrate+nitrite-N...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Water Resources Research
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The impact of agricultural chemicals on groundwater quality depends on the interactions of biogeochemical and hydrologic factors. To identify key processes affecting distribution of agricultural nitrate in groundwater, a parsimonious transport model was applied at 14 sites across the U.S. Simulated vertical profiles of NO3-, N2 from denitrification, O2, Cl-, and environmental tracers of groundwater age were matched to observations by adjusting the parameters for recharge rate, unsaturated zone travel time, fractions of N and Cl- inputs leached to groundwater, O2 reduction rate, O2 threshold for denitrification, and denitrification rate. Model results revealed important interactions among biogeochemical and physical...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Water Resources Research
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