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What impact might mitigation of diffuse nitrate pollution have on river water quality in a rural catchment?

By Michael G. Hutchins

Abstract

Observations of river flow, river quality and solar radiation were collated to assess the degree to which light and nutrients may be limiting phytoplankton growth at seven sites in the River Ouse catchment in NE England under average conditions. Hydraulic information derived from river network model applications was then used to determine where river water has sufficient residence time above the tidal limit to facilitate bloom development. A nitrate model (NALTRACES) was developed to estimate the impact of land management change on mean river nitrate concentrations. Applications of this model showed that although agricultural activity contributes substantially to nitrate loads in the Ouse it is likely to have little impact on phytoplankton growth, which could still occur extensively in its absence given favourable sunny and dry conditions. As an example of a means of controlling light availability, establishing full riparian tree cover would appear to be a considerably more effective management scenario than suppressing inputs to the river of nitrate or phosphorus. Any actions should be prioritised in headwater areas such as the upper reaches of the Swale and Ure tributaries. These conclusions are in broad agreement with those arising from more detailed simulations at daily resolution using the QUESTOR river quality model. The combination of simple modelling approaches applied here allows an initial identification of suitable spatially-targeted options for mitigating against phytoplankton blooms which can be applied more widely at a regional or national level

Topics: Ecology and Environment, Hydrology
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.04.045
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:17908

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