Agriculture, meteorology and water quality in Ireland: a regional evaluation of pressures and pathways of nutrient loss to water
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CitationR.P.O.Schulte, K. Richards,K. Daly, I. Kurz, E.J. McDonald and N.M. Holden. Agriculture, meteorology and water quality in Ireland: a regional evaluation of pressures and pathways of nutrient loss to water. Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 106b, no. 2, 117-33 (2006). DOI: 10.3318/BIOE.2006.106.2.117
AbstractThe main environmental impact of Irish agriculture on surface and ground water quality is the potential transfer of nutrients to water. Soil water dynamics mediate the transport of nutrients to water, and these dynamics in turn depend on agro-meteorological conditions, which show large variations between regions, seasons and years. In this paper we quantify and map the spatio-temporal variability of agro-meteorological factors that control nutrient pressures and pathways of nutrient loss. Subsequently, we evaluate their impact on the water quality of Irish rivers. For nitrogen, pressure and pathways factors coincide in eastern and southern areas, which is reflected in higher nitrate levels of the rivers in these regions. For phosphorus, pathway factors are most pronounced in north-western parts of the country. In south-eastern parts, high pressure factors result in reduced biological water quality. These regional differences require that farm practices be customised to reflect the local risk of nutrient loss to water. Where pathways for phosphorus loss are present almost year-round—as is the case in most of the north-western part of the country—build-up of pressures should be prevented, or ameliorated where already high. In south-eastern areas, spatio-temporal coincidence of nutrient pressures and pathways should be prevented, which poses challenges to grassland management.