Abstract

Increased nutrient and soil losses from agricultural areas into water bodies constitute a global problem. Phosphorus is one of the main nutrients causing eutrophication in surface waters. In arable land, phosphorus losses are closely linked to sediment losses. Therefore, a better understanding of the sediment-runoff processes in agricultural areas is a key to reduce the eutrophication impacts and to implement mitigation measures. The objectives of this study were to identify dominant sediment runoff processes in cultivated grain-dominated catchments in a cold climate. We assessed continuous high-resolution turbidity data, temporal and spatial catchment properties and agricultural management data to describe and get a better understanding of the cause-relationship of sediment transfer in two small agricultural dominated catchments in southern Norway. The concentration-discharge pattern, index of connectivity and agricultural activities were considered with the wider aim to establish a link between field and catchment scale. The results showed that the dominant concentration-discharge pattern was a clockwise concentration-discharge (c-q) hysteresis in both catchments indicating that areas close to or in the stream gave the highest contribution to turbidity. The main driver for turbidity was discharge, though soil water storage capacity, rain intensity and former discharge events also played a role. Intensity of soil tillage and index of connectivity (likelihood of water and particles to be transported to the stream) impacted the c-q hysteresis index. Little vegetation cover and high intensity of soil tillage led to a high hysteresis index, which indicates a quick increase in turbidity following increased discharge. Other links between agricultural management and in stream data were difficult to interpret. The findings of this study provide information about discharge, field operations and vegetational status as drivers for turbidity and about the spatial distribution of sediment sources in two agricultural catchments in a cold climate. The understanding of sediment runoff processes is important, when implementing management actions to combat agricultural emissions to water most efficiently.

Abstract

Land use and climate change can impact water quality in agricultural catchments. The objectives were to assess long-term monitoring data to quantify changes to the thermal growing season length, investigate farmer adaptations to this and examine these and other factors in relation to total nitrogen and nitrate water concentrations. Data (1991–2017) from seven small Norwegian agricultural catchments were analysed using Mann–Kendall Trend Tests, Pearson correlation and a linear mixed model. The growing season length increased significantly in four of seven catchments. In catchments with cereal production, the increased growing season length corresponded to a reduction in nitrogen concentrations, but there was no such relationship in grassland catchments. In one cereal catchment, a significant correlation was found between the start of sowing and start of the thermal growing season. Understanding the role of the growing season and other factors can provide additional insight into processes and land use choices taking place in agricultural catchments.

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Abstract

Agricultural, forestry‐impacted and natural catchments are all vectors of nutrient loading in the Nordic countries. Here, we present concentrations and fluxes of total nitrogen (totN) and phosphorus (totP) from 69 Nordic headwater catchments (Denmark: 12, Finland:18, Norway:17, Sweden:22) between 2000 and 2018. Catchments span the range of Nordic climatic and environmental conditions and include natural sites and sites impacted by agricultural and forest management. Concentrations and fluxes of totN and totP were highest in agricultural catchments, intermediate in forestry‐impacted and lowest in natural catchments, and were positively related %agricultural land cover and summer temperature. Summer temperature may be a proxy for terrestrial productivity, while %agricultural land cover might be a proxy for catchment nutrient inputs. A regional trend analysis showed significant declines in N concentrations and export across agricultural (−15 μg totN L−1 year−1) and natural (−0.4 μg NO3‐N L−1 year−1) catchments, but individual sites displayed few long‐term trends in concentrations (totN: 22%, totP: 25%) or export (totN: 6%, totP: 9%). Forestry‐impacted sites had a significant decline in totP (−0.1 μg P L−1 year−1). A small but significant increase in totP fluxes (+0.4 kg P km−2 year−1) from agricultural catchments was found, and countries showed contrasting patterns. Trends in annual concentrations and fluxes of totP and totN could not be explained in a straightforward way by changes in runoff or climate. Explanations for the totN decline include national mitigation measures in agriculture international policy to reduced air pollution and, possibly, large‐scale increases in forest growth. Mitigation to reduce phosphorus appears to be more challenging than for nitrogen. If the green shift entails intensification of agricultural and forest production, new challenges for protection of water quality will emerge possible exacerbated by climate change. Further analysis of headwater totN and totP export should include seasonal trends, aquatic nutrient species and a focus on catchment nutrient inputs.

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Abstract

The decay of organic material—litter decomposition—is a critical process for life on Earth and an essential part of the global carbon cycle. Yet, this basic process remains unknown to many citizens. The Tea Bag Index (TBI) measures decomposition in a standardized, measurable, achievable, climate-relevant, and time-relevant way by burying commercial tea bags in soil for three months and calculating proxies to characterize the decomposition process (expressed as decomposition rate (k) and stabilization factor (S)). We measured TBI at 8 cm soil depth with the help of school and farm citizen scientists in 2015 in Sweden and in 2016 in Austria. Questionnaires to the participating schools and farms enabled us to capture lessons learned from this participatory data collection. In total >5500 citizen scientists participated in the mass experiments, and approximately 50% of the tea bags sent out yielded successful results that fell well within previously reported ranges. The average decomposition rates (k) ranged from 0.008 to 0.012 g d−1 in Sweden and from 0.012 to 0.015 g d−1 in Austria. Stabilization factors (S) were up to four times higher in Sweden than Austria. Taking part in a global experiment was a great incentive for participants, and in future experiments the citizen scientists and TBI would benefit from having enhanced communication between the researchers and participants about the results gained.

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Abstract

Nordic water bodies face multiple stressors due to human activities, generating diffuse loading and climate change. The ‘green shift’ towards a bio-based economy poses new demands and increased pressure on the environment. Bioeconomy-related pressures consist primarily of more intensive land management to maximise production of biomass. These activities can add considerable nutrient and sediment loads to receiving waters, posing a threat to ecosystem services and good ecological status of surface waters. The potential threats of climate change and the ‘green shift’ highlight the need for improved understanding of catchment-scale water and element fluxes. Here, we assess possible bioeconomy-induced pressures on Nordic catchments and associated impacts on water quality. We suggest measures to protect water quality under the ‘green shift’ and propose ‘road maps’ towards sustainable catchment management. We also identify knowledge gaps and highlight the importance of long-term monitoring data and good models to evaluate changes in water quality, improve understanding of bioeconomy-related impacts, support mitigation measures and maintain ecosystem services.