A Bayesian approach to understanding the key factors influencing temporal variability in stream water quality - a case study in the Great Barrier Reef catchments

Shuci Liu, Dongryeol Ryu, J. Angus Webb, Anna Lintern, Danlu Guo, David Waters, Andrew W. Western

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Stream water quality is highly variable both across space and time. Water quality monitoring programmes have collected a large amount of data that provide a good basis for investigating the key drivers of spatial and temporal variability. Event-based water quality monitoring data in the Great Barrier Reef catchments in northern Australia provide an opportunity to further our understanding of water quality dynamics in subtropical and tropical regions. This study investigated nine water quality constituents, including sediments, nutrients and salinity, with the aim of (1) identifying the influential environmental drivers of temporal variation in flow event concentrations and (2) developing a modelling framework to predict the temporal variation in water quality at multiple sites simultaneously. This study used a hierarchical Bayesian model averaging framework to explore the relationship between event concentration and catchment-scale environmental variables (e.g. runoff, rainfall and groundcover conditions). Key factors affecting the temporal changes in water quality varied among constituent concentrations and between catchments. Catchment rainfall and runoff affected in-stream particulate constituents, while catchment wetness and vegetation cover had more impact on dissolved nutrient concentration and salinity. In addition, in large dry catchments, antecedent catchment soil moisture and vegetation had a large influence on dissolved nutrients, which highlights the important effect of catchment hydrological connectivity on pollutant mobilisation and delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2663-2683
Number of pages21
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2021

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