Patterns and Drivers of Groundwater and Stream Nitrate Concentrations in Intensively Managed Agricultural Catchments

Eoin McAleer, Catherine Coxon, Per-Erik Mellander, Jim Grant, Karl Richards
2022 Water  
The environmental loss of nitrogen in agricultural landscapes has pervasive consequences, including human health implications, eutrophication, loss of habitat biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions. The efficacy of mitigation strategies designed to control or prevent nitrate contamination of waterbodies requires an understanding of catchment scale pressures and processes. Groundwater and stream nitrate concentrations fluctuate over temporal scales ranging from the daily to the decadal.
more » ... fying spatiotemporal trends and dominant drivers of nitrate in water is challenging as the drivers are intertwined. The effects of agronomic, meteorological and hydrogeological drivers on groundwater and stream nitrate were investigated over seven years in two well-drained agricultural catchments, dominated by tillage and grassland farming, respectively. A significant positive temporal trend in nitrate concentration was observed in the tillage catchment, whereas no long-term trend was observed in the grassland catchment. Agronomic, meteorological and hydrogeological factors were significantly related to temporal nitrate changes across both catchments. Clearly identifying the drivers influencing temporal changes in nitrate concentrations is critical to improving water quality. The study highlighted that to reduce groundwater nitrate levels in areas of high risk (thin soils, low clay content and shallow groundwater), nitrogen applications need to be reduced and/or tailored, particularly at times of restricted crop growth.
doi:10.3390/w14091388 fatcat:mls7l52ujvcgbcbpzh5dfpa37q