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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Phosphorus Workshop

Phosphorus Losses from Agricultural Areas in River Basins


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 34 No. 6, p. 2129-2144
    Received: Nov 17, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): BKR@DMU.DK
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  1. B. Kronvang *a,
  2. M. Bechmannb,
  3. H. Lundekvamc,
  4. H. Behrendtd,
  5. G. H. Rubæke,
  6. O. F. Schoumansf,
  7. N. Syversenb,
  8. H. E. Andersena and
  9. C. C. Hoffmanna
  1. a National Environmental Research Institute, Department of Freshwater Ecology, Vejlsøvej 25, 8600, Silkeborg, Denmark
    b Jordforsk, Frederik A. Dahls Vei 20, N-1432 Ås, Norway
    c Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Box 5003, N-1432 Ås, Norway
    d Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Müggelseedamm 310, 12587 Berlin, Germany
    e Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Agroecology, Blichers Allé, Postbox 50, 8830 Tjele, Denmark
    f Alterra, Wageningen UR, PO Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands


In this paper we show the quantitative and relative importance of phosphorus (P) losses from agricultural areas within European river basins and demonstrate the importance of P pathways, linking agricultural source areas to surface water at different scales. Agricultural P losses are increasingly important for the P concentration in most European rivers, lakes, and estuaries, even though the quantity of P lost from agricultural areas in European catchments varies at least one order of magnitude (<0.2 kg P ha−1 to >2.1 kg P ha−1). We focus on the importance of P for the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive and discuss the benefits, uncertainties, and side effects of the different targeted mitigation measures that can be adopted to combat P losses from agricultural areas in river basins. Experimental evidence of the effects of some of the main targeted mitigation measures hitherto implemented is demonstrated, including: (i) soil tillage changes, (ii) treatment of soils near ditches and streams with iron to reduce P transport from source areas to surface waters, (iii) establishment of buffer zones for retaining P from surface runoff, (iv) restoration of river–floodplain systems to allow natural inundation of riparian areas and deposition of P, and (v) inundation of riparian areas with tile drainage water for P retention. Furthermore, we show how river basin managers can map and analyze the extent and importance of P risk areas, exemplified by four catchments differing in size in Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Finally, we discuss the factors and mechanisms that may delay and/or counteract the responses of mitigation measures for combating P losses from agricultural areas when monitored at the catchment scale.

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