Articles | Volume 8, issue 3
30 Jun 2004
30 Jun 2004

Impacts of forestry on nitrogen in upland and lowland catchments: a comparison of the River Severn at Plynlimon in mid-Wales and the Bedford Ouse in south-east England using the INCA Model

P. G. Whitehead, T. J. Hill, and C. Neal

Abstract. The impacts of afforestation at Plynlimon in the Severn catchment, mid-Wales, and in the Bedford Ouse catchment in south-east England are evaluated using the INCA model to simulate Nitrogen (N) fluxes and concentrations. The INCA model represents the key hydrological and N processes operating in catchments and simulates the daily dynamic behaviour as well as the annual fluxes. INCA has been applied to five years of data from the Hafren and Hore headwater sub-catchments (6.8 km2 area in total) of the River Severn at Plynlimon and the model was calibrated and validated against field data. Simulation of afforestation is achieved by altering the uptake rate parameters in the model. INCA simulates the daily N behaviour in the catchments with good accuracy as well as reconstructing the annual budgets for N release following clearfelling; a four-fold increase in N fluxes was followed by a slow recovery after re-afforestation. For comparison, INCA has been applied to the large (8380 km2) Bedford Ouse catchment to investigate the impact of replacing 20% arable land with forestry. The reduction in fertiliser inputs from arable farming and the N uptake by the forest are predicted to reduce the N flux reaching the main river system, leading to a 33% reduction in N-Nitrate concentrations in the river water.

Keywords: afforestation, water quality, nitrogen, modelling, land-use change, Wales, Plynlimon, Hore, Hafren, Bedford Ouse, Severn