Anthropogenic inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus and riverine export for Illinois, USA

Mark B. David, Lowell E. Gentry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Agricultural nonpoint sources are important contributors of N and P to surface waters. We determined N and P net anthropogenic inputs for Illinois, examining changes during the last 50 yr and linkages to surface water export of N and P. Inputs (fertilizer, atmospheric deposition, and N2 fixation) were compared to exports (grain export, after accounting for animal and human consumption, plus animal product export) from 1945 through 1998 using state-reported data on fertilizer sales, crop production, and human and animal populations. Large inputs of N were found beginning about 1965, coinciding with increased N fertilizer applications (about 800 000 Mg N yr-1). The N input (about 400 000 Mg N yr-1) was 8.6 million Mg N for the 1979 to 1996 crop years, with a corresponding riverine flux of 4.4 million Mg N (51% of net anthropogenic inputs discharged by rivers). Using literature estimates of field and in-stream denitrification, we could account for nearly all of the missing N in a mass balance. For P, a different pattern was found for state net anthropogenic inputs with a large input from 1965 to 1990, and on average no net inputs since 1990. For rivers, we estimated that 16% of the total N load and 47% of the total P load was from sewage effluent. We estimate that Illinois contributed 15 and 10% of the annual total N and P loads of the Mississippi River, respectively, and that any reduction strategy in Illinois must address agricultural sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)494-508
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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