Articles | Volume 6, issue 6
31 Dec 2002
31 Dec 2002

Modularised process-based modelling of phosphorus loss at farm and catchment scale

M. G. Hutchins, S. G. Anthony, R. A. Hodgkinson, and P. J. A. Withers

Abstract. In recent years, a co-ordinated programme of data collection has resulted in the collation of sub-hourly time-series of hydrological, sediment and phosphorus loss data, together with soil analysis, cropping and management information for two small (< 200 ha) headwater agricultural catchments in the UK Midlands (Rosemaund, Herefordshire and Cliftonthorpe, Leicestershire). These data sets have allowed the dynamics of phosphorus loss to be characterised and the importance of both storm runoff and drainflow to be identified, together with incidental losses following manure and fertiliser additions in contributing to total annual loss. A modularised process-based model has been developed to represent current understanding of the dynamics of phosphorus loss. Modules describing runoff and sediment generation and associated phosphorus adsorption/desorption dynamics are described and tested. In the model, the effect of a growing crop on sediment detachment processes is represented and the stability of topsoil is considered so that, overall, the model is responsive to farm management factors. Importantly, using data sets available from national-scale survey programmes to estimate model parameters, a transferable approach is presented, requiring only sub-hourly rainfall data and field-specific landcover information for application of the model to new sites. Results from application of the model to the hydrological year 1998–99 are presented. Assessment of performance, which suggests that the timing of simulated responses is acceptable, has focused attention on quantifying landscape and in-stream retention and remobilisation processes.

Keywords: phosphorus, erosion, process-based modelling, agriculture