Root zone losses are just the beginning
Stenger, Roland; Clague, Juliet; Woodward, Simon; Moorhead, B.; Wilson, Scott; Shokri, Ali; Wohling, Thomas; Canard, H.
Minimising root zone losses has rightly been the main focus in recent years of measures to reduce agricultural land use impacts on freshwater quality. However, root zone losses are just the beginning, as far as managing to water quality limits is concerned. To be able to fully explore all potentially available management options, the entire ‘source → transport/transformation → impact’ chain needs to be understood. Where, when, and to what extent the root zone losses impact on freshwater bodies depends on the transport and transformation processes occurring in the vadose zone – groundwater – surface water continuum. We will be elucidating these processes using a combination of New Zealand and European examples. Understanding the ‘where’ requires investigation of the relative importance of the various subsurface flow paths (e.g. artificial drainage, interflow, shallow and deeper groundwater). Modelling of the subsurface hydrological system also helps to define the groundwater catchments that contribute water (and the nitrate it carries) to a monitoring site. These groundwater catchments do not necessarily match the topographically defined surface water catchments. Regarding the ‘when’, it is essential to consider the lag times, both in the vadose zone and in the groundwater system. Depending on the relative importance of the various flow paths, not all nitrate lost from the root zone will reach a surface water body at the same time. The resulting distribution of transfer times further complicates establishing the link between an impact observed in a surface water body and the land use activity that has caused it. As for the ‘extent’ to which root zone nitrate losses impact on freshwater bodies, it is critical to account for attenuation processes occurring along the flow paths. The two key nitrate attenuation processes are mixing/dilution and denitrification (occurring below the root zone). While groundwater denitrification has to date received relatively little attention in New Zealand, its potentially substantial role is recognised by many European drinking water supply companies and regulatory authorities. Accordingly, new policy initiatives in Europe have started taking account of the spatially variable nitrate reduction along the flow paths from the source to the impact zones.... [Show full abstract]
Fields of Research060204 Freshwater Ecology; 079902 Fertilisers and Agrochemicals (incl. Application)
TypeConference Contribution - Published (Conference Paper)
- Lincoln Agritech 
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