Impacts of Climate Change and Different Crop Rotation Scenarios on Groundwater Nitrate Concentrations in a Sandy Aquifer
Nitrate in groundwater is a major concern in agricultural sub-watersheds. This study assessed the impacts of future climate and agricultural land use changes on groundwater nitrate concentrations in an agricultural sub-watershed (Norfolk site) in southern Ontario, Canada. A fully integrated hydrologic model (HydroGeoSphere) was used in combination with the root zone water quality model (RZWQM2) (shallow zone) to develop water flow and nitrate transport models. Three climate change models and
... hange models and three crop rotations (corn-soybean rotation, continuous corn, corn-soybean-winter wheat-red clover rotation) were used to evaluate the potential impact on groundwater quality (nine predictive scenarios). The selected climate change scenarios yielded less water availability in the future period than in the reference period (past conditions). The simulated nitrate nitrogen (Nitrate-N) concentrations were lower during the future period than the reference period. The continuous corn land use scenario produced higher Nitrate-N concentrations compared to the base case (corn-soybean rotation). However, the best management practices (BMP) scenario (corn-soybean-winter wheat-red clover rotation) produced significantly lower groundwater nitrate concentrations. BMPs, such as the one examined herein, should be adopted to reduce potential negative impacts of future climate change on groundwater quality, especially in vulnerable settings. These findings are important for water and land managers, to mitigate future impacts of nutrient transport on groundwater quality under a changing climate.