Articles | Volume 20, issue 12
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 4819–4835, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-20-4819-2016
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 4819–4835, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-20-4819-2016

Research article 08 Dec 2016

Research article | 08 Dec 2016

Uncertainty assessment of a dominant-process catchment model of dissolved phosphorus transfer

Rémi Dupas1, Jordy Salmon-Monviola1, Keith J. Beven2, Patrick Durand1, Philip M. Haygarth2, Michael J. Hollaway2, and Chantal Gascuel-Odoux1 Rémi Dupas et al.
  • 1INRA, Agrocampus Ouest, UMR1069 SAS, 35000 Rennes, France
  • 2Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YQ, UK

Abstract. We developed a parsimonious topography-based hydrologic model coupled with a soil biogeochemistry sub-model in order to improve understanding and prediction of soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) transfer in agricultural headwater catchments. The model structure aims to capture the dominant hydrological and biogeochemical processes identified from multiscale observations in a research catchment (Kervidy–Naizin, 5 km2). Groundwater fluctuations, responsible for the connection of soil SRP production zones to the stream, were simulated with a fully distributed hydrologic model at 20 m resolution. The spatial variability of the soil phosphorus content and the temporal variability of soil moisture and temperature, which had previously been identified as key controlling factors of SRP solubilization in soils, were included as part of an empirical soil biogeochemistry sub-model. The modelling approach included an analysis of the information contained in the calibration data and propagation of uncertainty in model predictions using a generalized likelihood uncertainty estimation (GLUE) "limits of acceptability" framework. Overall, the model appeared to perform well given the uncertainty in the observational data, with a Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency on daily SRP loads between 0.1 and 0.8 for acceptable models. The role of hydrological connectivity via groundwater fluctuation and the role of increased SRP solubilization following dry/hot periods were captured well. We conclude that in the absence of near-continuous monitoring, the amount of information contained in the data is limited; hence, parsimonious models are more relevant than highly parameterized models. An analysis of uncertainty in the data is recommended for model calibration in order to provide reliable predictions.

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Short summary
We developed a parsimonious topography-based hydrologic model coupled with a soil biogeochemistry sub-model in order to improve understanding and prediction of soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) transfer in agricultural headwater catchments. The modelling approach includes an analysis of the information contained in the calibration data and propagation of uncertainty in model predictions using a GLUE "limits of acceptability" framework.