Climate Change and Agricultural Development: Adapting Polish Agriculture to Reduce Future Nutrient Loads in a Coastal Watershed (2014)

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Currently, there is a major concern about the future of nutrient loads discharged into the Baltic Sea from Polish rivers because they are main contributors to its eutrophication. To date, no watershed-scale studies have properly addressed this issue. This paper fills this gap by using a scenario-modeling framework applied in the Reda watershed, a small (482 km2) agricultural coastal area in northern Poland. We used the SWAT model to quantify the effects of future climate, land cover, and management changes under multiple scenarios up to the 2050s. The combined effect of climate and land use change on N-NO3 and P-PO4 loads is an increase by 20–60 and 24–31 %, respectively, depending on the intensity of future agricultural usage. Using a scenario that assumes a major shift toward a more intensive agriculture following the Danish model would bring significantly higher crop yields but cause a great deterioration of water quality. Using vegetative cover in winter and spring (VC) would be a very efficient way to reduce future P-PO4 loads so that they are lower than levels observed at present. However, even the best combination of measures (VC, buffer zones, reduced fertilization, and constructed wetlands) would not help to remediate heavily increased N-NO3 loads due to climate change and agricultural intensification.
Year: 2014
Language: English
In: AMBIO 43 (5): 644-660

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Note: Open access article