The nutrient budget, the difference between the nutrient output via stream and input via precipitation, can provide insights into how environmental processes affect forested ecosystem biogeochemistry. In this study, field measurements of the nutrient budgets—including Na+, Cl−, K+, Mg2+, Ca2+, NO3−, and SO42−—of 19 sites were conducted in Feitsui Reservoir Watershed (FRW) of northeastern Taiwan. A series of power-law regressions were developed to establish the relationship of the nutrient budget to the discharge, nutrient input, agricultural land cover, and slope. The result show that the weekly nutrient budget is significantly affected by agricultural land and input via precipitation (R2 of regression models ≥ 0.90), yet the relationship varies among different nutrient elements. The agricultural land cover is the major factor, while the input via precipitation plays a relatively minor role in the budget of Cl−, Mg2+, Ca2+, and SO42−. These nutrients could be provisioned abundantly from the system, and thus the input via precipitation is not the predominant controlling factor. By contrast, the Na+ and K+ inputs via precipitation are indispensable for accurately estimating the riverine exports. Because weathering is a limited source of K+, the roles of agricultural activities and input via precipitation are likely decisive for transport. Besides, the NO3− budget reveals a strong interplay between the atmospheric input and agricultural land, as expected. Because the nutrient budget model of NO3− is strongly improved, the R2 changes from 0.34 to 0.99 when a larger coefficient in exponent term (10.2) for agricultural land cover (showing that NO3− export is strongly hydrologically controlled) and precipitation input are included. Our analysis is based on one year of data, so extrapolating the result to a long-term period should be done with caution, as there could be substantial inter-annual variation. The nutrient budget approach provides a preliminary assessment to evaluate the impacts of agriculture and atmospheric deposition on nutrient export, which can provide a precursory reference for watershed management for improving water quality and mitigating eutrophication.
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