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.
Influence of climate, topography, and soil type on soil extractable phosphorus in croplands of northern glacial‐derived landscapes
Janina M. Plach,
Merrin L. Macrae,
Henry F. Wilson,
David A. Lobb,
Kevin W. King
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 51, Issue 4
Delineating the relative solubility of soil phosphorus (P) in agricultural landscapes is essential to predicting potential P mobilization in the landscape and can improve nutrient management strategies. This study describes spatial patterns of soil extractable P (easily, moderately, and poorly soluble P) in agricultural landscapes of the Red River basin and the southern Great Lakes region. Surface soils (0-30 cm) and select deeper cores (0-90 cm) were collected from 10 cropped fields ranging in terrain (near-level to hummocky), soil texture (clay to loam), composition (calcareous to noncalcareous), and climate across these differing glacial landscapes. Poorly soluble P dominated (up to 91%) total extractable P in the surface soils at eight sites. No differences in the relative solubilities of soil extractable P with microtopography were apparent in landscapes without defined surface depressions. In contrast, in landscapes with pronounced surface depressions, increased easily soluble P (Sol-P), and decreased soil P sorption capacity were found in soil in wetter, low-slope zones relative to drier upslope locations. The Sol-P pool was most important to soil P retention (up to 28%) within the surface depressions of the Red River basin and at sites with low-carbonate soils in the southern Lake Erie watershed (up to 28%), representing areas at elevated risk of soil P remobilization. This study demonstrates interrelationships among soil extractable P pools, soil development, and soil moisture regimes in agricultural glacial landscapes and provides insight into identifying potential areas for soil P remobilization and associated P availability to crops and runoff.
Abstract. The Red River is one of the largest contributing sources of discharge and nutrients to the world's 10th largest freshwater lake, Lake Winnipeg. Conversion of large areas of annual cropland to perennial forage has been proposed as a strategy to reduce both flooding and nutrient export to Lake Winnipeg. Such reductions could occur either via a reduction in the concentration of nutrients in runoff or through changes in the basin-scale hydrology, resulting in a lower water yield and the concomitant export of nutrients. This study assessed the latter mechanism by using the physically based Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling platform to examine the hydrological impacts of land use conversion from annual crops to perennial forage in a subbasin of the La Salle River basin in Canada. This basin is a typical agricultural subbasin in the Red River Valley, characterised by flat topography, clay soils, and a cold subhumid, continental climate. Long-term simulations (1992–2013) of the major components of water balance were compared between canola and smooth bromegrass, representing a conversion from annual cropping systems to perennial forage. An uncertainty framework was used to represent a range of fall soil saturation status (0 % to 70 %), which governs the infiltration to frozen soil in the subsequent spring. The model simulations indicated that, on average, there was a 36.5 ± 6.6 % (36.5 ± 7.2 mm) reduction in annual cumulative discharge and a 29.9 ± 16.3 % (2.6 ± 1.6 m3 s−1) reduction in annual peak discharge due to forage conversion over the assessed period. These reductions were driven by reduced overland flow 52.9 ± 12.8 % (28.8 ± 10.1 mm), increased peak snowpack (8.1 ± 1.5 %, 7.8 ± 1.6 mm), and enhanced infiltration to frozen soils (66.7 ± 7.7 %, 141.5 ± 15.2 mm). Higher cumulative evapotranspiration (ET) from perennial forage (34.5 ± 0.9 %, 94.1 ± 2.5 mm) was also predicted by the simulations. Overall, daily soil moisture under perennial forage was 18.0 % (57.2 ± 1.2 mm) higher than that of crop simulation, likely due to the higher snow water equivalent (SWE) and enhanced infiltration. However, the impact of forage conversion on daily soil moisture varied interannually. Soil moisture under perennial forage stands could be either higher or lower than that of annual crops, depending on antecedent spring snowmelt infiltration volumes.
Phosphorus (P) runoff from agricultural land plays a critical role in downstream water quality. This article summarizes P and sediment runoff data for both snowmelt and rainfall runoff from 30 arable fields in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. The data were collected from 216 site-years of field experiments, with climates ranging from semi-arid to humid and a wide range of field management practices. In the article, mean annual and seasonal (in terms of snowmelt and rain) precipitation inputs, runoff depths, and P and sediment concentrations and loads are presented, along with ranges of yearly values. In addition, information of field management and soil characteristics (e.g. soil type and soil Olsen P) is also presented for each field. The data have potential to be reused for national and international cross-region comparisons of P and sediment losses, constructing and validating decision-support models and tools for assessing and managing P losses in both snowmelt and rainfall runoff, and informing beneficial management practices to improve agricultural water quality. Interpretation of the data is found in “Phosphorus runoff from Canadian agricultural land: A cross-region synthesis of edge-of-field results”  .
Algal blooms fueled by phosphorus (P) enrichment are threatening surface water quality around the world. Although P loss from arable land is a critical contributor to P loads in many agricultural watersheds , there has been a lack of understanding of P loss patterns and drivers across regions. Here, we synthesized edge-of-field P and sediment runoff data for 30 arable fields in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario (a total of 216 site-years) to elucidate spatial and temporal differences in runoff and P mobilization in snowmelt and rainfall runoff, and discuss climatic, soil and management drivers for these patterns. Across all regions, precipitation inputs were positively correlated with runoff amounts and consequently P loads. Runoff and P losses were dominated by snowmelt across all sites, however, regional differences in runoff amounts, and P concentrations, loads and speciation were apparent. Proportions of total P in the dissolved form were greater in the prairie region (55–94% in Manitoba) than in the Great Lakes region (26–35% in Ontario). In Manitoba, dissolved P concentrations in both snowmelt and rainfall runoff were strongly positively correlated to soil Olsen P concentrations in the 0–5 cm soil depth; however, this relationship was not found for Ontario fields, where tile drainage dominated hydrologic losses. Although precipitation amounts and runoff volumes were greater in Ontario than Manitoba, some of the greatest P loads were observed from Manitoba fields, driven by management practices. This synthesis highlights the differences across the Canadian agricultural regions in P runoff patterns and drivers, and suggests the need of co-ordinated and standardized monitoring programs to better understand regional differences and inform management. Phosphorus runoff patterns vary with climatic regions across Canada. †The dissolved P was measured as total dissolved P in MB and dissolved reactive P in SK and ON. ‡Total P was not measured in SK. • Phosphorus runoff patterns and drivers vary with climatic regions across Canada. • Co-ordinated and standardized monitoring programs are key to clarify regional differences. • Snowmelt dominates runoff volume and phosphorus loss across Canada. • The predominant form of P in runoff differs between the Prairie region and the Great Lakes region. • Reducing phosphorus sources is important for mitigating phosphorus runoff.
Predicting Variable Contributing Areas, Hydrological Connectivity, and Solute Transport Pathways for a Canadian Prairie Basin
J. M. Elliott,
Helen M. Baulch,
Henry F. Wilson,
John W. Pomeroy
Water Resources Research, Volume 56, Issue 12
In cold agricultural regions, seasonal snowmelt over frozen soils provides the primary source of runoff and transports large nutrient loads downstream. The postglacial landscape of the Canadian Prairies and Northern Plains of the United States creates challenges for hydrological and water quality modeling. Here, the application of conventional hydrological models is problematic because of cold regions hydrological and chemical processes, the lack of fluvially eroded drainage systems, large noncontributing areas to streamflow and level topography. A new hydrodynamic model was developed to diagnose overland flow from snowmelt in this situation. The model was used to calculate the effect of variable contributing areas on (1) hydrological connectivity and the development of (2) tipping points in streamflow generation and (3) predominant chemical transport pathways. The agricultural Steppler Basin in Manitoba, Canada, was used to evaluate the model and diagnose snowmelt runoff. Relationships were established between contributing area and (1) snowmelt runoff intensity, (2) seasonal snowmelt volumes and duration, and (3) inundated, active and connected areas. Variations in the contributing area depended on terrain and snowmelt characteristics including wind redistribution of snow. Predictors of hydrological response and the size of the contributing area were developed which can be used in larger scale hydrological models of similar regions
The Northern Great Plains is a key region to global food production. It is also a region of water stress that includes poor water quality associated with high concentrations of nutrients. Agricultural nitrogen and phosphorus loads to surface waters need to be reduced, yet the unique characteristics of this environment create challenges. The biophysical reality of the Northern Great Plains is one where snowmelt is the major period of nutrient transport, and where nutrients are exported predominantly in dissolved form. This limits the efficacy of many beneficial management practices (BMPs) commonly used in other regions and necessitates place-based solutions. We discuss soil and water management BMPs through a regional lens—first understanding key aspects of hydrology and hydrochemistry affecting BMP efficacy, then discussing the merits of different BMPs for nutrient control. We recommend continued efforts to “keep water on the land” via wetlands and reservoirs. Adoption and expansion of reduced tillage and perennial forage may have contributed to current nutrient problems, but both practices have other environmental and agronomic benefits. The expansion of tile and surface drainage in the Northern Great Plains raises urgent questions about effects on nutrient export and options to mitigate drainage effects. Riparian vegetation is unlikely to significantly aid in nutrient retention, but when viewed against an alternative of extending cultivation and fertilization to the waters’ edge, the continued support of buffer strip management and refinement of best practices (e.g., harvesting vegetation) is merited. While the hydrology of the Northern Great Plains creates many challenges for mitigating nutrient losses, it also creates unique opportunities. For example, relocating winter bale-grazing to areas with low hydrologic connectivity should reduce loadings. Managing nutrient applications must be at the center of efforts to mitigate eutrophication. In this region, ensuring nutrients are not applied during hydrologically sensitive periods such as late autumn, on snow, or when soils are frozen will yield benefits. Working to ensure nutrient inputs are balanced with crop demands is crucial in all landscapes. Ultimately, a targeted approach to BMP implementation is required, and this must consider the agronomic and economic context but also the biophysical reality.
Controls on nutrient transport in cold, low-relief agricultural regions vary dramatically among seasons. The spring snowmelt is often the dominant runoff and nutrient loading event of the year. However, climate change may increase the proportion of runoff occurring with rainfall, and there is an urgent need to understand seasonal controls on nutrient transport to understand how patterns may change in the future. In this study, we assess patterns and drivers of total P (TP) dynamics in eight streams draining agriculturally dominated watersheds, located in southern Manitoba, Canada. Data from three years of monitoring revealed highly coherent patterns of TP concentrations in streams, with pronounced peaks in the spring and midsummer across the region. This coherent pattern was in spite of considerable interannual variability in the magnitude and timing of discharge; in particular, a major storm event occurred in summer 2014, which resulted in more discharge than the preceding spring melt. Concentration-discharge model fits were generally poor or not significant, suggesting that runoff generation is not the primary driver of TP dynamics in the majority of streams. Seasonal patterns of conductivity and stream temperature suggest that mechanisms controlling TP vary by season; a spring TP concentration maximum may be related to surface runoff over frozen soils, whereas the summer TP maximum may be related to temperature-driven biogeochemical processes, which are not well represented in current conceptual or predictive models. These findings suggest that controls on stream TP concentrations are dynamic through the year, and responses to increases in dormant and nondormant season temperatures may depend on seasonally variable processes.
Agricultural Water Quality in Cold Climates: Processes, Drivers, Management Options, and Research Needs
Helen M. Baulch,
Merrin L. Macrae,
Henry F. Wilson,
J. M. Elliott,
Aaron J. Glenn,
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 48, Issue 4
Cold agricultural regions are important sites of global food production. This has contributed to widespread water quality degradation influenced by processes and hydrologic pathways that differ from warm region analogues. In cold regions, snowmelt is often a dominant period of nutrient loss. Freeze-thaw processes contribute to nutrient mobilization. Frozen ground can limit infiltration and interaction with soils, and minimal nutrient uptake during the nongrowing season may govern nutrient export from agricultural catchments. This paper reviews agronomic, biogeochemical, and hydrological characteristics of cold agricultural regions and synthesizes findings of 23 studies that are published in this special section, which provide new insights into nutrient cycling and hydrochemical processes, model developments, and the efficacy of different potentially beneficial management practices (BMPs) across varied cold regions. Growing evidence suggests the need to redefine optimum soil phosphorus levels and input regimes in cold regions to allow achievement of water quality targets while still supporting strong agricultural productivity. Practices should be considered through a regional and site-specific lens, due to potential interactions between climate, hydrology, vegetation, and soils, which influence the efficacy of nutrient, crop, water, and riparian buffer management. This leads to differing suitability of BMPs across varied cold agricultural regions. We propose a systematic approach (""), to achieve water quality objectives in variable and changing climates, which combines nutrient transport process onceptualization, nderstanding BMP functions, redicting effects of variability and change, onsideration of producer input and agronomic and environmental tradeoffs, practice daptation, nowledge mobilization, and valuation of water quality improvement.
Managing P export from agricultural land is critical to address freshwater eutrophication. However, soil P management, and options to draw down soil P have received little attention in snowmelt-dominated regions because of limited interaction between soil and snowmelt. Here, we assessed the impacts of soil P drawdown (reducing fertilizer P inputs combined with harvest removal) on soil Olsen P dynamics, runoff P concentrations, and crop yields from 1997 to 2014 in paired fields in Manitoba, Canada. We observed that Olsen P concentrations in the 0- to 5-cm soil layer were negatively correlated with the cumulative P depletion and declined rapidly at the onset of the drawdown practice (3.1 to 5.4 mg kg yr during 2007-2010). In both snowmelt runoff and rainfall runoff, concentrations of total dissolved P (TDP) were positively correlated with the concentrations of soil Olsen P. Soil P drawdown to low to moderate fertility levels significantly decreased mean annual flow-weighted TDP concentrations in snowmelt runoff from 0.60 to 0.30 mg L in the field with high initial soil P and from 1.17 to 0.42 mg L in the field with very high initial soil P. Declines in TDP concentration in rainfall runoff were greater. Critically, yields of wheat ( spp.) and canola ( L.) were not affected by soil P depletion. In conclusion, we demonstrate that relatively rapid reductions in P loads are achievable at the field scale via managing P inputs and soil P pools, highlighting a management opportunity that can maintain food security while improving water security in cold regions.
The use of cover crops and crop residues is a common strategy to mitigate sediment and nutrient losses from land to water. In cold climates, elevated dissolved P losses can occur associated with freeze-thaw of plant materials. Here, we review the impacts of cover crops and crop residues on dissolved P and total P loss in cold climates across ∼41 studies, exploring linkages between water-extractable P (WEP) in plant materials and P loss in surface runoff and subsurface drainage. Water-extractable P concentrations are influenced by plant type and freezing regimes. For example, WEP was greater in brassica cover crops than in non-brassicas, and increased with repeated freeze-thaw cycles. However, total P losses in surface runoff and subsurface drainage from cropped fields under cold climates were much lower than plant WEP, owing to retention of 45 to >99% of released P by soil. In cold climatic regions, cover crops and crop residues generally prevented soil erosion and loss of particle-bound P during nongrowing seasons in erodible landscapes but tended to elevate dissolved P loss in nonerodible soils. Their impact on total P loss was inconsistent across studies and complicated by soil, climate, and management factors. More research is needed to understand interactions between these factors and plant type that influence P loss, and to improve the assessment of crop contributions to P loss in field settings in cold climates. Further, tradeoffs between P loss and the control of sediment loss and N leaching by plants should be acknowledged.
Measurement of the retention of dissolved nutrients in riparian areas with snowmelt runoff are much less common than for rainfall runoff, but low rates of uptake or the release of nutrients with snowmelt have been attributed to frozen soils, lower biotic uptake, and release of nutrients from senesced vegetation. In the research presented here, we evaluate whether the potential for uptake of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) and NO differ significantly between snowmelt and summer seasons with flow through 13 riparian buffers downstream of cropland in Manitoba, Canada. Flow-through buffers in small channels are typical in this landscape, and pulsed releases of a conservative tracer and dissolved nutrients were used to measure uptake rates. Although mean uptake rates of NO were higher in summer than for snowmelt, responses varied widely. Aerial uptake rate of DRP showed a significant negative relationships with soil Olsen-P ( = 0.54, < 0.001) and a P saturation index ( = 0.48, < 0.001) across both seasons. Biological processes may be of greater importance for NO retention, but DRP retention appears to be driven by adsorption-desorption regardless of season. Olsen-P is identified as a good indicator of potential for release or retention of DRP in riparian buffers with fine-textured calcareous soils, for both snowmelt and summer seasons. Soil testing may be a good tool to aid in the siting of new buffers and to track the effectiveness of management interventions to remove P from riparian areas, such as harvest of vegetation.
In the northern Great Plains, most runoff transport of N, and P to surface waters has historically occurred with snowmelt. In recent years, significant rainfall runoff events have become more frequent and intense in the region. Here, we examine the influence of landscape characteristics on hydrology and nutrient export in nine tributary watersheds of the Assiniboine River in Manitoba, Canada, during snowmelt runoff and with an early summer extreme rainfall runoff event (ERRE). All watersheds included in the study have land use that is primarily agricultural, but with differing proportions of land remaining as wetlands, grassland, and that has been artificially drained. Those watersheds with greater capacity for storage of water in surface depressions (noneffective contributing areas) exhibited lower rates of runoff and nutrient export with snowmelt. During the ERRE, higher export of total P (TP), but not total N, was observed from those watersheds with larger amounts of contributing area that had been added through artificial surface drainage, and this was associated primarily with higher TP concentrations. Increasing or restoring the storage of water on the landscape is likely to reduce nutrient export; however, the importance of antecedent conditions was evident during the ERRE, when small surface depressions were at or near capacity from snowmelt. Total P concentrations observed during the summer ERRE were as high as those observed with snowmelt, and N/P ratios were significantly lower. If the frequency of summer ERREs increases with climate change, this is likely to result in negative water quality outcomes.
In northern regions, a high proportion of annual runoff and phosphorus (P) export from cropland occurs with snowmelt. In this study, we analyze 57 site-years of field-scale snowmelt runoff data from 16 small watersheds draining fine-textured soils (clay or clay loam) in Manitoba, Canada. These fields were selected across gradients of soil P (2.4 to 26.7 mg kg, 0- to 15-cm Olsen P), tillage intensity (high frequency to long-term no-till), and fertilizer input. The strongest predictor of flow-weighted mean concentrations of total dissolved P (TDP) in snowmelt runoff was Olsen P in the top 5 cm of soil ( = 0.45, < 0.01). Residual variation in this relationship related positively to volumetric soil moisture and negatively to water yield. Although Olsen P levels were relatively consistent from year to year, suggesting control by long-term fertilization and tillage history, Olsen P stratification (ratio of 0-5/0-15 cm) increased with rates of fertilizer application. Particulate P (PP) comprised <34% of total P on average, and concentrations were not well predicted by soil or management characteristics. Loads of PP and TDP exported during snowmelt were primarily a function of water yield and size of accumulated snowpack; however, residual variation in the TDP relationship correlated positively with both soil moisture and Olsen P. Retention of runoff water on the landscape could reduce loads, but careful management of near-surface soil P is required to prevent snowmelt runoff losses of P at the source and to reduce the potential for the eutrophication of downstream aquatic ecosystems.