Efficiency of mitigation measures targeting nutrient losses from agricultural drainage systems: A review

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Diffusive losses of nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural areas have detrimental effects on freshwater and marine ecosystems. Mitigation measures treating drainage water before it enters streams hold a high potential for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus losses from agricultural areas. To achieve a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges characterising current and new drainage mitigation measures in oceanic and continental climates, we reviewed the nitrate and total phosphorus removal efficiency of: (i) free water surface constructed wetlands, (ii) denitrifying bioreactors, (iii) controlled drainage, (iv) saturated buffer zones and (v) integrated buffer zones. Our data analysis showed that the load of nitrate was substantially reduced by all five drainage mitigation measures, while they mainly acted as sinks of total phosphorus, but occasionally, also as sources. The various factors influencing performance, such as design, runoff characteristics and hydrology, differed in the studies, resulting in large variation in the reported removal efficiencies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1820-1837
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Agricultural drainage systems, Catchment management, Meta-analysis, Mitigation measures, Nutrient reduction, Water quality

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