Issues of diffuse pollution model complexity arising from performance benchmarking
Abstract. Flow and nitrate dynamics were simulated in two catchments, the River Aire in northern England and the River Ythan in north-east Scotland. In the case of the Aire, a diffuse pollution model was coupled with a river quality model (CASCADE-QUESTOR); in the study of the Ythan, an integrated model (SWAT) was used. In each study, model performance was evaluated for differing levels of spatial representation in input data sets (rainfall, soils and land use). In respect of nitrate concentrations, the performance of the models was compared with that of a regression model based on proportions of land cover. The overall objective was to assess the merits of spatially distributed input data sets. In both catchments, specific measures of quantitative performance showed that models using the most detailed available input data contributed, at best, only a marginal improvement over simpler implementations. Hence, the level of complexity used in input data sets has to be determined, not only on multiple criteria of quantitative performance but also on qualitative assessments, reflecting the specific context of the model application and the current and likely future needs of end-users.