J. M. Elliott


DOI bib
Impact of climate change on catchment nutrient dynamics: insights from around the world
Diogo Costa, Caleb Sutter, Anita Shepherd, Helen P. Jarvie, Henry F. Wilson, J. M. Elliott, Jian Liu, Merrin L. Macrae
Environmental Reviews, Volume 31, Issue 1

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.


DOI bib
Screening and scoping-level assessment of beneficial management practices in a Canadian prairie watershed
Jian Liu, Jennifer Roste, Helen M. Baulch, J. M. Elliott, John-Mark Davies, Etienne Shupena-Soulodre
Canadian Water Resources Journal / Revue canadienne des ressources hydriques, Volume 47, Issue 1

Abstract In the Canadian prairies, eutrophication is a widespread issue, with agriculture representing a major anthropogenic nutrient source in many watersheds. However, efforts to mitigate agricultural nutrient export are challenged by the lack of coordinated monitoring programs and the unique hydrological characteristics of the prairies, notably, the dominance of snowmelt in both water flows and nutrient loads, variable runoff, variable contributing area and the issues of understanding how scale affects nutrient concentrations and prevalence of dissolved nutrient transport (over total nutrients). Efforts are being made to integrate these characteristics in process-based water quality models, but the models are often complex and are not yet ready for use by watershed managers for prioritizing implementation of beneficial management practices (BMPs). In this study, a screening and scoping approach based on nutrient export coefficient modeling was used to prioritize BMPs for the 55,700 km2 Qu’Appelle Watershed, Saskatchewan. By integrating land use information, in-stream monitoring data, stakeholder input and nutrient export coefficient modeling, the study assessed potential efficiencies of six BMPs involving fertilizer, manure, grazing, crop and wetland management in nutrient load reductions for nine tributaries of the watershed. Uncertainty around the effectiveness of the BMPs was assessed. Field-level export coefficients were adjusted with nutrient delivery ratios for estimating watershed-level exports. Of the BMPs examined, in general, wetland restoration had the greatest potential to reduce both nitrogen and phosphorus loads in most tributaries, followed by fertilizer management. The importance of wetland restoration was supported by positive, significant, linear correlations between nutrient delivery ratios and drainage intensity in the tributaries (nitrogen: R 2 = 0.67; phosphorus: R 2 = 0.82). Notably, the relative ranking of BMP efficiencies varied with tributaries, as a result of differing landscape characteristics, land uses and nutrient inputs. In conclusion, the approach developed here acknowledges uncertainty, but provides a means to guide management decisions within the context of an adaptive management approach, where BMP implementation is partnered with monitoring and assessment to revise ongoing plans and ensures selected practices are meeting goals for nutrient abatement.


DOI bib
Phosphorus runoff from Canadian agricultural land: A dataset for 30 experimental fields
Jian Liu, J. M. Elliott, Henry F. Wilson, Merrin L. Macrae, Helen M. Baulch, David A. Lobb
Data in Brief, Volume 38

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” [1] .

DOI bib
Phosphorus runoff from Canadian agricultural land: A cross-region synthesis of edge-of-field results
Jian Liu, J. M. Elliott, Henry F. Wilson, Merrin L. Macrae, Helen M. Baulch, David A. Lobb
Agricultural Water Management, Volume 255

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.

DOI bib
Advances in the simulation of nutrient dynamics in cold climate agricultural basins: Developing new nitrogen and phosphorus modules for the Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling Platform
Diogo Costa, John W. Pomeroy, Thomas A. Brown, Helen M. Baulch, J. M. Elliott, Merrin L. Macrae
Journal of Hydrology, Volume 603

• Application of popular catchment nutrient models is problematic in cold regions. • New nutrient modules have been developed for the Cold Regions Hydrological Model. • The model was applied to a sub-basin of the increasingly eutrophic Lake Winnipeg, Canada. • Simulated SWE, discharge, NO3, NH4, SRP and partP were compared against observations. • Typical ∼9 day-freshet accounted for 16–31% of the total annual nutrient load. Excess nutrients in aquatic ecosystems is a major water quality problem globally. Worsening eutrophication issues are notable in cold temperate areas, with pervasive problems in many agriculturally dominated catchments. Predicting nutrient export to rivers and lakes is particularly difficult in cold agricultural environments because of challenges in modelling snow, soil, frozen ground, climate, and anthropogenic controls. Previous research has shown that the use of many popular small basin nutrient models can be problematic in cold regions due to poor representation of cold region hydrology. In this study, the Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling Platform (CRHM), a modular modelling system, which has been widely deployed across Canada and cold regions worldwide, was used to address this problem. CRHM was extended to simulate biogeochemical and transport processes for nitrogen and phosphorus through a complex of new process-based modules that represent physicochemical processes in snow, soil and freshwater. Agricultural practices such as tillage and fertilizer application, which strongly impact the availability and release of soil nutrients, can be explicitly represented in the model. A test case in an agricultural basin draining towards Lake Winnipeg shows that the model can capture the extreme hydrology and nutrient load variability of small agricultural basins at hourly time steps. It was demonstrated that fine temporal resolutions are an essential modelling requisite to capture strong concentration changes in agricultural tributaries in cold agricultural environments. Within these ephemeral and intermittent streams, on average, 30%, 31%, 20%, and 16% of the total annual load of nitrate (NO 3 ), ammonium (NH 4 ), soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), and particulate phosphorous (partP)NO 3 , NH 4 , SRP and partP occurred during the episodic snowmelt freshet ( ∼ 9 days, accounting for 21% of the annual flow), but shows extreme temporal variation. The new nutrient modules are critical tools for predicting nutrient export from small agricultural drainage basins in cold climates via better representation of key hydrological processes, and a temporal resolution more suited to capture dynamics of ephemeral and intermittent streams.


DOI bib
Predicting Variable Contributing Areas, Hydrological Connectivity, and Solute Transport Pathways for a Canadian Prairie Basin
Diogo Costa, Kevin Shook, C. Spence, 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

DOI bib
Modelling nutrient dynamics in cold agricultural catchments: A review
Diogo Costa, Helen M. Baulch, J. M. Elliott, John W. Pomeroy, H. S. Wheater
Environmental Modelling & Software, Volume 124

Abstract The hydrology of cold regions has been studied for decades with substantial progress in process understanding and prediction. Simultaneously, work on nutrient yields from agricultural land in cold regions has shown much slower progress. Advancement of nutrient modelling is constrained by well-documented issues of spatial heterogeneity, climate dependency, data limitations and over-parameterization of models, as well as challenges specific to cold regions due to the complex (and often unknown) behaviour of hydro-biogeochemical processes at temperatures close to and below freezing where a phase change occurs. This review is a critical discussion of these issues by taking a close look at the conceptual models and methods behind used catchment nutrient models. The impact of differences in model structure and the methods used for the prediction of hydrological processes, erosion and biogeochemical cycles are examined. The appropriateness of scale, scope, and complexity of models are discussed to propose future research directions.

DOI bib
The Nutrient App: Developing a smartphone application for on-site instantaneous community-based <mml:math xmlns:mml="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" altimg="si1.svg"><mml:mrow><mml:msub><mml:mtext>NO</mml:mtext><mml:mn>3</mml:mn></mml:msub></mml:mrow></mml:math> and <mml:math xmlns:mml="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" altimg="si2.svg"><mml:mrow><mml:msub><mml:mtext>PO</mml:mtext><mml:mn>4</mml:mn></mml:msub></mml:mrow></mml:math> monitoring
Diogo Costa, Uswah Aziz, J. M. Elliott, Helen M. Baulch, Banani Roy, Kevin A. Schneider, John W. Pomeroy
Environmental Modelling & Software, Volume 133

Abstract Freshwater ecosystems, particularly those in agricultural areas, remain at risk of eutrophication due to anthropogenic inputs of nutrients. While community-based monitoring has helped improve awareness and spur action to mitigate nutrient loads, monitoring is challenging due to the reliance on expensive laboratory technology, poor data management, time lags between measurement and availability of results, and risk of sample degradation during transport or storage. In this study, an easy-to-use smartphone-based application (The Nutrient App) was developed to estimate NO 3 and PO 4 concentrations through the image-processing of on-site qualitative colorimetric-based results obtained via cheap commercially-available instantaneous test kits. The app was tested in rivers, wetlands, and lakes across Canada and relative errors between 30% (filtered samples) and 70% (unfiltered samples) were obtained for both NO 3 and PO 4 . The app can be used to identify sources and hotspots of contamination, which can empower communities to take immediate remedial action to reduce nutrient pollution.


DOI bib
Soil and water management: opportunities to mitigate nutrient losses to surface waters in the Northern Great Plains
Helen M. Baulch, J. M. Elliott, Marcos R. C. Cordeiro, Don Flaten, David A. Lobb, Henry F. Wilson
Environmental Reviews, Volume 27, Issue 4

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.

DOI bib
Temporal Dynamics of Snowmelt Nutrient Release from Snow–Plant Residue Mixtures: An Experimental Analysis and Mathematical Model Development
Diogo Costa, Jian Liu, Jennifer Roste, J. M. Elliott
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 48, Issue 4

Reducing eutrophication in surface water is a major environmental challenge in many countries around the world. In cold Canadian prairie agricultural regions, part of the eutrophication challenge arises during spring snowmelt when a significant portion of the total annual nutrient export occurs, and plant residues can act as a nutrient source instead of a sink. Although the total mass of nutrients released from various crop residues has been studied before, little research has been conducted to capture fine-timescale temporal dynamics of nutrient leaching from plant residues, and the processes have not been represented in water quality models. In this study, we measured the dynamics of P and N release from a cold-hardy perennial plant species, alfalfa ( L.), to meltwater after freeze-thaw through a controlled snowmelt experiment. Various winter conditions were simulated by exposing alfalfa residues to different numbers of freeze-thaw cycles (FTCs) of uniform magnitude prior to snowmelt. The monitored P and N dynamics showed that most nutrients were released during the initial stages of snowmelt (first 5 h) and that the magnitude of nutrient release was affected by the number of FTCs. A threshold of five FTCs was identified for a greater nutrient release, with plant residue contributing between 0.29 (NO) and 9 (PO) times more nutrients than snow. The monitored temporal dynamics of nutrient release were used to develop the first process-based predictive model controlled by three potentially measurable parameters that can be integrated into catchment water quality models to improve nutrient transport simulations during snowmelt.

DOI bib
Agricultural Water Quality in Cold Climates: Processes, Drivers, Management Options, and Research Needs
Jian Liu, Helen M. Baulch, Merrin L. Macrae, Henry F. Wilson, J. M. Elliott, Lars Bergström, Aaron J. Glenn, Peter Vadas
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.

DOI bib
Impacts of Soil Phosphorus Drawdown on Snowmelt and Rainfall Runoff Water Quality
Jian Liu, J. M. Elliott, Henry F. Wilson, Helen M. Baulch
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 48, Issue 4

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.

DOI bib
Impacts of Cover Crops and Crop Residues on Phosphorus Losses in Cold Climates: A Review
Jian Liu, Merrin L. Macrae, J. M. Elliott, Helen M. Baulch, Henry F. Wilson, Peter J. A. Kleinman
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 48, Issue 4

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.

DOI bib
Nutrient Loss in Snowmelt Runoff: Results from a Long‐term Study in a Dryland Cropping System
Kimberley D. Schneider, B.G. McConkey, Arumugam Thiagarajan, J. M. Elliott, Keith Reid
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 48, Issue 4

Snowmelt runoff often comprises the majority of annual runoff in the Canadian Prairies and a significant proportion of total nutrient loss from agricultural land to surface water. Our objective was to determine the effect of agroecosystem management on snowmelt runoff and nutrient losses from a long-term field experiment at Swift Current, SK. Runoff quantity, nutrient concentrations, and loads were estimated after a change in management from conventionally tilled wheat ( L.)-fallow (Conv W-F) to no-till wheat-fallow and subsequently no-till wheat-pulse (NT W-F/LP) and to an organic system with a wheat-green manure rotation (Org W-GM). The conversion from conventional tillage practices to no-till increased snowmelt runoff likely due to snow trapping by standing stubble after summer fallow. Relatedly, runoff after no-till summer fallow had higher dissolved P losses (0.07 kg P ha). Replacing summer fallow with a pulse crop in the no-till rotation decreased snowmelt runoff losses and nutrient concentrations. The Org W-GM treatment had the lowest P loss after stubble (0.02 kg P ha) but had high dissolved P concentrations in snowmelt following the green manure (0.55 mg P L), suggesting a contribution from incorporated crop residues. In this semiarid climate with little runoff, dissolved reactive P and NO-N loads in snowmelt runoff were smaller than those reported elsewhere on the prairies (averaging <0.05 kg P ha yr, and <0.2 kg NO-N ha yr); however, the nutrient concentrations we observed, in particular for P, even without P fertilizer addition for organic production, question the practicality of agricultural management systems in this region meeting water quality guidelines.

DOI bib
Near‐Surface Soils as a Source of Phosphorus in Snowmelt Runoff from Cropland
Henry F. Wilson, J. M. Elliott, Merrin L. Macrae, Aaron J. Glenn
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 48, Issue 4

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.

DOI bib
Using an inverse modelling approach with equifinality control to investigate the dominant controls on snowmelt nutrient export
Diogo Costa, John W. Pomeroy, Helen M. Baulch, J. M. Elliott, H. S. Wheater
Hydrological Processes, Volume 33, Issue 23

There is great interest in modelling the export of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) from agricultural fields because of ongoing challenges of eutrophication. However, the use of existing hydrochemistry models can be problematic in cold regions because models frequently employ incomplete or conceptually incorrect representations of the dominant cold regions hydrological processes and are overparameterized, often with insufficient data for validation. Here, a process‐based N model, WINTRA, which is coupled to a physically based cold regions hydrological model, was expanded to simulate P and account for overwinter soil nutrient biochemical cycling. An inverse modelling approach, using this model with consideration of parameter equifinality, was applied to an intensively monitored agricultural basin in Manitoba, Canada, to help identify the main climate, soil, and anthropogenic controls on nutrient export. Consistent with observations, the model results suggest that snow water equivalent, melt rate, snow cover depletion rate, and contributing area for run‐off generation determine the opportunity time and surface area for run‐off–soil interaction. These physical controls have not been addressed in existing models. Results also show that the time lag between the start of snowmelt and the arrival of peak nutrient concentration in run‐off increased with decreasing antecedent soil moisture content, highlighting potential implications of frozen soils on run‐off processes and hydrochemistry. The simulations showed TDP concentration peaks generally arriving earlier than NO₃ but also decreasing faster afterwards, which suggests a significant contribution of plant residue Total dissolved Phosphorus (TDP) to early snowmelt run‐off. Antecedent fall tillage and fertilizer application increased TDP concentrations in spring snowmelt run‐off but did not consistently affect NO₃ run‐off. In this case, the antecedent soil moisture content seemed to have had a dominant effect on overwinter soil N biogeochemical processes such as mineralization, which are often ignored in models. This work demonstrates both the need for better representation of cold regions processes in hydrochemical models and the model improvements that are possible if these are included.


DOI bib
A modelling framework to simulate field-scale nitrate response and transport during snowmelt: The WINTRA model
Diogo Costa, Jennifer Roste, John W. Pomeroy, Helen M. Baulch, J. M. Elliott, H. S. Wheater, Cherie J. Westbrook
Hydrological Processes, Volume 31, Issue 24

Modeling nutrient transport during snowmelt in cold regions remains a major scientific challenge. A key limitation of existing nutrient models for application in cold regions is the inadequate representation of snowmelt, including hydrological and biogeochemical processes. This brief period can account for more than 80% of the total annual surface runoff in the Canadian Prairies and Northern Canada and processes such as atmospheric deposition, over-winter redistribution of snow, ion exclusion from snow crystals, frozen soils, and snowcovered area depletion during melt influence the distribution and release of snow and soil nutrients, thus affecting the timing and magnitude of snowmelt runoff nutrient concentrations.Research in cold regions suggests that nitrate (NO3) runoff at the field scale can be divided into five phases during snowmelt. In the first phase, water and ions originating from ion-rich snow layers travel and diffuse through the snowpack. This process causes ion concentrations in runoff to gradually increase. The second phase occurs when this snow ion meltwater front has reached the bottom of the snowpack and forms runoff to the edge-of-the-field (EOF). During the third and fourth phases, the main source of NO3 transitions from the snowpack to the soil. Finally, the fifth and last phase occurs when the snow has completely melted, and the thawing soil becomes the main source of NO3 to the stream.In this research, a process-based model was developed to simulate hourly export based on this five-phase approach. Results from an application in the Red River Basin of southern Manitoba, Canada shows that the model can adequately capture the dynamics and rapid changes of NO3 concentrations during this period at relevant temporal resolutions. This is a significant achievement to advance the current nutrient modeling paradigm in cold climates, which is generally limited to satisfactory results at monthly or annual resolutions. The approach can inform catchment-scale nutrient models to improve simulation of this critical snowmelt period.Nutrient exports Winter Snow Nitrate Agriculture Nutrient model