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Hans Estrup Andersen

Quantifying the combined effects of land use and climate changes on stream flow and nutrient loads: A modelling approach in the Odense Fjord catchment (Denmark)

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Water pollution and water scarcity are among the main environmental challenges faced by the European Union, and multiple stressors compromise the integrity of water resources and ecosystems. Particularly in lowland areas of northern Europe, high population density, flood protection and, especially, intensive agriculture, are important drivers of water quality degradation. In addition, future climate and land use changes may interact, with uncertain consequences for water resources. Modelling approaches have become essential to address water issues and to evaluate ecosystem management. In this work, three multi-stressor future storylines combining climatic and socio-economic changes, defined at European level, have been downscaled for the Odense Fjord catchment (Denmark), giving three scenarios: High-Tech agriculture (HT), Agriculture for Nature (AN) and Market-Driven agriculture (MD). The impacts of these scenarios on water discharge and inorganic and organic nutrient loads to the streams have been simulated using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). The results revealed that the scenario-specific climate inputs were most important when simulating hydrology, increasing river discharge in the HT and MD scenarios (which followed the high emission 8.5 representative concentration pathway, RCP), while remaining stable in the AN scenario (RCP 4.5). Moreover, discharge was the main driver of changes in organic nutrients and inorganic phosphorus loads that consequently increased in a high emission scenario. Nevertheless, both land use (via inputs of fertilizer) and climate changes affected the nitrate transport. Different levels of fertilization yielded a decrease in the nitrate load in AN and an increase in MD. In HT, however, nitrate losses remained stable because the fertilization decrease was counteracted by a flow increase. Thus, our results suggest that N loads will ultimately depend on future land use and management in an interaction with climate changes, and this knowledge is of utmost importance for the achievement of European environmental policy goals.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Pages (from-to)253-264
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2018

    Research areas

  • Catchment management, Climate change, Eco-hydrological modelling, Nutrients, Scenario simulation, SWAT

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