Assessing the risk of phosphorus transfer to high ecological status rivers: Integration of nutrient management with soil geochemical and hydrological conditions

W.M. Roberts, J.L. Gonzalez-Jimenez, D.G. Doody, P. Jordan, K. Daly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Abstract Agriculture has been implicated in the loss of pristine conditions and ecology at river sites classified as at �high ecological status� across Europe. Although the exact causes remain unclear, diffuse phosphorus (P) transfer warrants consideration because of its wider importance for the ecological quality of rivers. This study assessed the risk of P loss at field scale from farms under contrasting soil conditions within three case-study catchments upstream of near-pristine river sites. Data from 39 farms showed P surpluses were common on extensive farm enterprises despite a lower P requirement and level of intensity. At field scale, data from 520 fields showed that Histic topsoils with elevated organic matter contents had low P reserves due to poor sorption capacities, and received applications of P in excess of recommended rates. On this soil type 67 of fields recorded a field P surplus of between 1 and 31 kg ha� 1, accounting for 46 of fields surveyed across 10 farms in a pressured high status catchment. A P risk assessment combined nutrient management, soil biogeochemical and hydrological data at field scale, across 3 catchments and the relative risks of P transfer were highest when fertilizer quantities that exceeded current recommendations on soils with a high risk of mobilization and high risk of transport as indicated by topographic wetness index values. This situation occurred on 21 of fields surveyed in the least intensively managed catchment with no on-farm nutrient management planning and soil testing. In contrast, the two intensively managed catchments presented a risk of P transfer in only 3 and 1 of fields surveyed across 29 farms. Future agri-environmental measures should be administered at field scale, not farm scale, and based on soil analysis that is inclusive of {OM} values on a field-by-field basis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25 - 35
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume589
Early online date3 Mar 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Mar 2017

Keywords

  • Phosphorus
  • Agriculture
  • High ecological status
  • Nutrient management
  • Soil type
  • Organic matter

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