Assessing the Impact of Agricultural Pressures on N and P Loads and Potential Eutrophication Risk at Regional Scales

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Chantal Gascuel-odoux, INRA, UMR1069, Sol Agro and hydroSystem, F-35000 Rennes, France, Rémi Dupas, Agrocampus Ouest, UMR1069, Sol Agro and hydroSystem, Rennes Cedex, France, Magalie Delmas, INRA, Infosol, F-45075 Orleans, France and Florentina Moatar, Univ Tours, Fac Sci & Tech, EA 6293, F-37200 Tours, France
Excessive nutrient loading of freshwater bodies results in increased eutrophication risk worldwide. The processes controlling N/P transfer in agricultural landscapes are well documented through scientific studies conducted in intensively monitored catchments. However, managers need tools to assess water quality and evaluate the contribution of agriculture to eutrophication at regional scales, including unmonitored or poorly monitored areas. To this end, we present an assessment framework which includes: i) a mass-balance model to estimate diffuse N/P transfer and retention and ii) indicators based on N:P:Si molar ratios to assess potential eutrophication risk from external loads. The model, called Nutting (Dupas et al., 2013), integrates variables for both detailed description of agricultural pressures (N surplus, soil P content) and characterisation of physical attributes of catchments (including spatial attributes). It was calibrated on 160 catchments, and applied to 2210 unmonitored headwater bodies in France (Dupas et al., under review). N and P retention represented 53% and 95% of soil N and P surplus, respectively, and was mainly controlled by runoff and an index characterising infiltration/runoff properties. According to our estimates, diffuse agricultural sources represented a mean of 97% of N loads and N exceeded Si in 93% of the catchments, whilst they represented 46% of P loads and P exceeded Si in 26-65% of the catchments. Estimated eutrophication risk was highly sensitive to assumptions about P bioavailability, hence the range of headwaters potentially at risk spanned 26-63% of the catchments, depending on assumptions. To reduce this uncertainty, we recommend introducing P bioavailability tests in water monitoring programs, especially in sensitive areas.

Dupas R et al. Assessing N emissions in surface water at the national level: comparison of country-wide vs. regionalized models. Sci Total Environ 2013; 443: 152-62.

Dupas R et al. Assessing the impact of agricultural pressures on N and P loads and eutrophication risk (under review).