Articles | Volume 6, issue 3
30 Jun 2002
30 Jun 2002

Modelling nitrogen dynamics and distributions in the River Tweed, Scotland: an application of the INCA model

H. P. Jarvie, A. J. Wade, D. Butterfield, P. G. Whitehead, C. I. Tindall, W. A. Virtue, W. Dryburgh, and A. McGraw

Abstract. The INCA (Integrated Nitrogen in Catchments) model was applied to the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders, a large-scale (4400km2), spatially heterogeneous catchment, draining a wide range of agricultural land-use types, and which contributes approximately 20% of UK river flows to the North Sea. The model was calibrated for the first four years' data record (1994 to 1997) and tested over the following three years (1998 to 2000). The model calibration and testing periods incorporated a high degree of variability in climatic conditions and river flows within the Tweed catchment. The ability of the INCA model to reproduce broad-scale spatial patterns and seasonal dynamics in river flows and nitrate concentrations suggests that the processes controlling first order variability in river water nitrate concentrations have been represented successfully within the model. The tendency of the model to overestimate summer/early autumn baseflow nitrate concentrations during dry years may be linked to the operation of aquatic plant uptake effects. It is, therefore, suggested that consideration be given to incorporating a spatially and temporally variable in-stream plant uptake term for the application of INCA to lowland eutrophic rivers. Scenarios to examine possible impacts of environmental change on nitrate concentrations on the Tweed are examined. These include the effects of (i) implementing different recommendations for fertiliser use and land use change under the Nitrate Sensitive Areas (NSA) Scheme and the Scottish Code of Good Agricultural Practice, (ii) worst case scenario changes linked to a dramatic reduction in livestock numbers as a result of a crisis in UK livestock farming and (iii) changes in atmospheric nitrogen deposition.

Keywords: Nitrate, nitrogen, modelling, Tweed, INCA