Intensive management in grasslands causes diffuse water pollution at the farm scale
Macleod, Christopher J.A.
Brazier, Richard E.
Journal of Environmental Quality
Copyright © 2014. . Copyright © by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.
Reason for embargo
Arable land use is generally assumed to be the largest contributor to agricultural diffuse pollution. This study adds to the growing evidence that conventional temperate intensively managed lowland grasslands contribute significantly to soil erosion and diffuse pollution rates. This is the first grassland study to monitor hydrological characteristics and multiple pollutant fluxes (suspended sediment [SS] and the macronutrients: total oxidized nitrogen-N [TONN], total phosphorus [TP], and total carbon [TC]) at high temporal resolution (monitoring up to every 15 min) over 1 yr. Monitoring was conducted across three fields (6.5-7.5 ha) on the North Wyke Farm Platform, UK. The estimated annual erosion rates (up to 527.4 kg ha-1), TP losses (up to 0.9 kg ha-1), and TC losses (up to 179 kg ha-1) were similar to or exceeded the losses reported for other grassland, mixed land-use, and arable sites. Annual yields of TONN (up to 3 kg ha-1) were less than arable land-use fluxes and earlier grassland N studies, an important result as the study site is situated within a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone. The high-resolution monitoring allowed detailed "system's functioning" understanding of hydrological processes, mobilization- transport pathways of individual pollutants, and the changes of the relative importance of diffuse pollutants through flow conditions and time. Suspended sediment and TP concentrations frequently exceeded water quality guidelines recommended by the European Freshwater Fisheries Directive (25 mg L-1) and the European Water Framework Directive (0.04 mg soluble reactive P L-1), suggesting that intensively managed grasslands pose a significant threat to receiving surface waters. Such sediment and nutrient losses from intensively managed grasslands should be acknowledged in land management guidelines and advice for future compliance with surface water quality standards.
NERC-Case PhD award
UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Journal of Environmental Quality, 2014, Vol. 43, Issue 6, pp. 2009 - 2023