Articles | Volume 5, issue 3
30 Sep 2001
30 Sep 2001

Modelling nitrogen dynamics at Lochnagar, N.E. Scotland.

A. Jenkins, R. C. Ferrier, and R. C. Helliwell

Abstract. Controls on nitrate leaching from upland moorland catchments are not yet fully understood and yet, despite agreements on emission reductions, increased surface water nitrate concentrations may affect significantly the acidity status of these waters in the future. At Lochnagar, an upland moorland catchment in N.E. Scotland, 12 years of surface water chemistry observations have identified a steady increase in nitrate concentration despite no measured change in inorganic nitrogen deposition. The MAGIC model has been applied to simulate a "best case" situation assuming nitrate in surface water represents "hydrological" contributions (direct run-off) and a ‘worst case’ assuming a nitrogen saturation mechanism in the catchment soil. Only the ‘saturation’ model is capable of matching the 12 years of observation for nitrate but both model structures match the pH and acid neutralising capacity record. Future predictions to 2040, in response to the agreed emission reductions under the Gothenburg Protocol, are markedly different. The worst case predicts continued surface water acidification whilst the best case predicts a steady recovery.

Keywords: nitrogen saturation, modelling, Lochnagar, Gothenburg Protocol