Nutrient losses from agricultural fields are the largest sources of phosphorus (P) entering the Great Lakes in North America. Stacked conservation practices (CPs) may reduce P losses from individual fields. Simple low-cost, low disturbance, commercially available filters containing wood chips and phosphorus sorbing materials (PSM) were installed on two fields already using conservation practices in midwestern Ontario (ILD and LON) to quantify their ability to remove soluble reactive P (SRP), particulate P (PP), total P (TP) and total suspended sediments (TSS) from surface runoff. Laboratory tests on unused (new) and used (field) filter materials were also conducted to estimate P sorption and remobilization potentials. During the two-year study period, the filter retained 0.018 kg ha-1 of SRP, 0.38 kg ha-1 of PP, 0.4 kg ha-1 of TP and 8.75 kg ha-1 of TSS from surface runoff at the ILD site. In contrast, although the filter at LON removed 37 kg ha-1 of TSS and 0.07 kg ha-1 of PP, it released 0.22 kg ha-1 of SRP and 0.15 kg ha-1 TP. A reduction in filter efficacy was observed over time, particularly at the site with greater cumulative surface runoff and larger runoff events (LON). The majority of the SRP retained by the filter was held in a loosely bound form, thus, susceptible to P remobilization. The results of this study demonstrate that low-cost, simple PSMs have some potential to retain P from surface runoff, but their efficacy may decline over time and their P retention capability may differ with site hydrology (e.g., runoff volumes and velocity) and P supply.
This study is a meta-analysis of global articles on hydrological nutrient dynamics to determine trends and consensus on: (1) the effects of climate change-induced hydrological and temperature drivers on nutrient dynamics and how these effects vary along the catchment continuum from land to river to lake; (2) the convergence of climate change impacts with other anthropogenic pressures (agriculture, urbanization) in nutrient dynamics; and (3) regional variability in the effects of climate change on nutrient dynamics and water-quality impairment across different climate zones. An innovative web crawler tool was employed to help critically synthesize the information in the literature. The literature suggests that climate change will impact nutrient dynamics around the globe and exacerbate contemporary water-quality challenges. Nutrient leaching and overland flow transport are projected to increase globally, promoted by extreme precipitation. Seasonal variations in streamflow are expected to emulate changing precipitation patterns, but the specific local impacts of climate change on hydrology and nutrient dynamics will vary both seasonally and regionally. Plant activity may reduce some of this load in nonagricultural soils if the expected increase in plant uptake of nutrients prompted by increased temperatures can compensate for greater nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) mineralization, N deposition, and leaching rates. High-temperature forest and grass fires may help reduce mineralization and microbial turnover by altering N speciation via the pyrolysis of organic matter. In agricultural areas that are at higher risk of erosion, extreme precipitation will exacerbate existing water-quality issues, and greater plant nutrient uptake may lead to an increase in fertilizer use. Future urban expansion will amplify these effects. Higher ambient temperatures will promote harmful cyanobacterial blooms by enhancing thermal stratification, increasing nutrient load into streams and lakes from extreme precipitation events, decreasing summer flow and thus baseflow dilution capacity, and increasing water and nutrient residence times during increasingly frequent droughts. Land management decisions must consider the nuanced regional and seasonal changes identified in this review (realized and predicted). Such knowledge is critical to increasing international cooperation and accelerating action toward the United Nations’s global sustainability goals and the specific objectives of the Conference of Parties (COP) 26.
Abstract Nutrient and soil loss from agricultural areas impairs surface water quality globally. In the Great Lakes region, increases in the frequency and magnitude of harmful and nuisance algal blooms in freshwater lakes have been linked to elevated phosphorus (P) losses from agricultural fields, some of which are transported via tile drainage. This study examined whether concentrations and loads of P fractions, total suspended sediments (TSS), nitrate (NO 3 − ), and ammonium (NH 4 + ) in tile drainage in a clay soil differed between a continuous no‐till system combining cover crops and surface broadcast fertilizer (no‐till cover crop [NTCC]), and a more conventional tillage system with shallow tillage, fertilizer incorporation and limited use of cover crops (conventional conservation‐till, CT). Both sites had modest soil fertility levels. Year‐round, high‐frequency observations of tile drainage flow and chemistry are described over 4 full water years and related to management practices on the associated fields. There were similar water yields in tile drainage between the two systems; however, losses of TSS, particulate P (PP), and NO 3 − were consistently greater from the CT site, which received larger quantities of fertilizer. In contrast, dissolved reactive P (DRP) losses were considerably greater from the NTCC site, offsetting the lower PP losses, such that there was little difference in TP losses between sites. Approximately 60% of the DRP losses from the NTCC site over the 4 years were associated with incidental losses following surface application of fertilizer in fall. This study provides insight into trade‐offs in controlling losses of different nutrient fractions using different management systems.
Addressing conservation practice limitations and trade‐offs for reducing phosphorus loss from agricultural fields
Peter J. A. Kleinman,
Deanna L. Osmond,
Laura E. Christianson,
James A. Ippolito,
Helen P. Jarvie,
Jason P. Kaye,
Kevin W. King,
April B. Leytem,
Joshua M. McGrath,
Nathan O. Nelson,
Amy L. Shober,
Douglas R. Smith,
K. W. Staver,
Andrew N. Sharpley
Agricultural & Environmental Letters, Volume 7, Issue 2
Conservation practices that reduce nutrient and soil loss from agricultural lands to water are fundamental to watershed management programs. Avoiding trade-offs of conservation practices is essential to the successful mitigation of watershed phosphorus (P) losses. We review documented trade-offs associated with conservation practices, particularly those practices that are intended to control and trap P from agricultural sources. A regular theme is the trade-off between controlling P loss linked to sediment while increasing dissolved P losses (no-till, cover crops, vegetated buffers, constructed wetlands, sediment control basins). A variety of factors influence the degree to which these trade-offs occur, complicated by their interaction and uncertainties associated with climate change. However, acknowledging these trade-offs and anticipating their contribution to watershed outcomes are essential to the sustainability of conservation systems.
One size does not fit all: Toward regional conservation practice guidance to reduce phosphorus loss risk in the Lake Erie watershed
Merrin L. Macrae,
Helen P. Jarvie,
Grant E. Gunn,
Kevin W. King,
Peter J. A. Kleinman,
Mark R. Williams,
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 50, Issue 3
Agricultural phosphorus (P) losses to surface water bodies remain a global eutrophication concern, despite the application of conservation practices on farm fields. Although it is generally agreed upon that the use of multiple conservation practices (“stacking”) will lead to greater improvements to water quality, this may not be cost effective to farmers, reducing the likelihood of adoption. At present, wholesale recommendations of conservation practices are given; however, the application of specific conservation practices in certain environments (e.g., no-till with surface application, cover crops) may not be effective and can even lead to unintended consequences. In this paper, we present the Lake Erie watershed as a case study. The Lake Erie watershed contains regions with unique physical geographies that include differences in climate, soil, topography, and land use, which have implications for both P transport from agricultural fields and the efficacy of conservation practices in mitigating P losses. We define major regions within the Lake Erie watershed where common strategies for conservation practice implementation are appropriate, and we propose a five-step plan for bringing regionally tailored, adaptive, and cost-conscious conservation practice into watershed planning. Although this paper is specific to the Lake Erie watershed, our framework can be transferred across broader geographic regions to provide guidance for watershed planning.
Nutrient losses from agricultural operations are a major contributor to the eutrophication of freshwaters. Although many studies have quantified diffuse nutrient losses, less is known about agricultural point-source contributions, such as bunker silos, to watershed phosphorus (P) loads. This study examined the contributions of a dairy farm bunker silo effluent to watershed soluble reactive P (SRP) and total P (TP) losses. The bunker silo effluent discharged to an adjacent stream via a riparian soakaway for ca. 15 years. Prior to the annual refilling of the bunker silo, flow weighted mean concentrations of SRP (TP) were similar between stream locations up and downstream of the farm. After the bunker silo was refilled, flow-weighted SRP (TP) concentrations in the stream increased by factors of 1.5(2.2) during events and 3.1(2.3) during baseflow. Higher P concentrations occurred in the riparian soils receiving bunker silo effluent (525–3125 mg/kg TP, and 0.1–9.9 mg/kg water extractable P (WEP), compared with 525–939 mg/kg TP, and 0.11–1.43 mg/kg WEP on the opposite side of the stream with no bunker silo effluent. Riparian soils impacted by the bunker silo were near P-saturation, and the riparian zone did little to reduce P transfer in shallow groundwater. The net contributions of bunker silo effluent to annual watershed P losses were 32% (SRP) and 22% (TP). This study highlights the importance of agricultural point sources, and the need to quantify their contributions to watershed P budgets to target P remediation effectively.
Biogeochemical and climate drivers of wetland phosphorus and nitrogen release: Implications for nutrient legacies and eutrophication risk
Helen P. Jarvie,
Merrin L. Macrae,
Michael J. Bowes,
Stephen M. King,
Richard J. Williams,
Linda K. Armstrong,
David J. Nicholls,
William D. Lord,
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 49, Issue 6
The dynamics and processes of nutrient cycling and release were examined for a lowland wetland-pond system, draining woodland in southern England. Hydrochemical and meteorological data were analyzed from 1997 to 2017, along with high-resolution in situ sensor measurements from 2016 to 2017. The results showed that even a relatively pristine wetland can become a source of highly bioavailable phosphorus (P), nitrogen (N), and silicon (Si) during low-flow periods of high ecological sensitivity. The drivers of nutrient release were primary production and accumulation of biomass, which provided a carbon (C) source for microbial respiration and, via mineralization, a source of bioavailable nutrients for P and N co-limited microorganisms. During high-intensity nutrient release events, the dominant N-cycling process switched from denitrification to nitrate ammonification, and a positive feedback cycle of P and N release was sustained over several months during summer and fall. Temperature controls on microbial activity were the primary drivers of short-term (day-to-day) variability in P release, with subdaily (diurnal) fluctuations in P concentrations driven by water body metabolism. Interannual relationships between nutrient release and climate variables indicated “memory” effects of antecedent climate drivers through accumulated legacy organic matter from the previous year's biomass production. Natural flood management initiatives promote the use of wetlands as “nature-based solutions” in climate change adaptation, flood management, and soil and water conservation. This study highlights potential water quality trade-offs and shows how the convergence of climate and biogeochemical drivers of wetland nutrient release can amplify background nutrient signals by mobilizing legacy nutrients, causing water quality impairment and accelerating eutrophication risk.
Phosphorus (P) plays a crucial role in agriculture as a primary fertilizer nutrient-and as a cause of the eutrophication of surface waters. Despite decades of efforts to keep P on agricultural fields and reduce losses to waterways, frequent algal blooms persist, triggering not only ecological disruption but also economic, social, and political consequences. We investigate historical and persistent factors affecting agricultural P mitigation in a transect of major watersheds across North America: Lake Winnipeg, Lake Erie, the Chesapeake Bay, and Lake Okeechobee/Everglades. These water bodies span 26 degrees of latitude, from the cold climate of central Canada to the subtropics of the southeastern United States. These water bodies and their associated watersheds have tracked trajectories of P mitigation that manifest remarkable similarities, and all have faced challenges in the application of science to agricultural management that continue to this day. An evolution of knowledge and experience in watershed P mitigation calls into question uniform solutions as well as efforts to transfer strategies from other arenas. As a result, there is a need to admit to shortcomings of past approaches, plotting a future for watershed P mitigation that accepts the sometimes two-sided nature of Hennig Brandt's "Devil's Element."