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 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.
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.
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.
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.