Assessing the impact of changes in landuse and management practices on the diffuse pollution and retention of nitrate in a riparian floodplain.

Centre for Sustainable Water Management, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster, United Kingdom.
Science of The Total Environment (Impact Factor: 3.16). 02/2008; 389(1):149-64. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2007.08.057
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In many European lowland rivers and riparian floodplains diffuse nutrient pollution is causing a major risk for the surface waters and groundwater to not achieve a good status as demanded by the European Water Framework Directive. In order to delimit the impact of diffuse nutrient pollution substantial and often controversial changes in landuse and management are under discussion. In this study we investigate the impact of two complex scenarios considering changes in landuse and land management practices on the nitrate loads of a typical lowland stream and the riparian groundwater in the North German Plains. Therefore the impacts of both scenarios on the nitrate dynamics, the attenuation efficiency and the nitrate exchange between groundwater and surface water were investigated for a 998.1 km(2) riparian floodplain of the Lower and Central Havel River and compared with the current conditions. Both scenarios target a substantial improvement of the ecological conditions and the water quality in the research area but promote different typical riparian landscape functions and consider a different grade of economical and legal feasibility of the proposed measures. Scenario 1 focuses on the optimisation of conservation measures for all natural resources of the riparian floodplain, scenario 2 considers measures in order to restore a good status of the water bodies mainly. The IWAN model was setup for the simulation of water balance and nitrate dynamics of the floodplain for a perennial simulation period of the current landuse and management conditions and of the scenario assumptions. The proposed landuse and management changes result in reduced rates of nitrate leaching from the root zone into the riparian groundwater (85% for scenario 1, 43% for scenario 2). The net contributions of nitrate from the floodplain can be reduced substantially for both scenarios. In case of scenario 2 a decrease by 70% can be obtained. For scenario 1 the nitrate exfiltration rates to the river drop even below the infiltration rates from the river, the riparian floodplain in that scenario represents a net sink for river derived nitrate. As the nitrate contributions from the investigated riparian floodplain represent only a small proportion of the total nitrate loads within the river (1% p.a.) the overall impact of the scenario measures on the nitrate loads at the river outlet remains small. However, during the ecologically most sensitive summer periods under current conditions nitrate contributions from the riparian groundwater of the Lower and Central Havel River (which covers only 5% of the area of the Havel catchment) represent more than 20% of the river loads. By the implementation of the investigated landuse changes within the research area the groundwater derived nitrate contributions could be halved to only 10% during summer baseflow conditions.

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