Nitrogen fluxes at the landscape scale: a case study in Scotland
Nitrogen (N) fluxes show a substantial variability at the landscape scale. Emissions are transferred by atmospheric, hydrological and anthropogenic dispersion between different landscape elements or ecosystems, e.g. farms, fields, forests or moorland. These landscape N fluxes can cause impacts to the environment, such as loss of biodiversity. The aim of this study is to illustrate how landscape N fluxes can be quantified by integrating atmospheric and fluvial fluxes in a Scottish landscape of 6 km x 6 km that contains intensively managed poultry farming, extensively managed beef and sheep farming, semi-natural moorland and woodland. Atmospheric ammonia (NH3) emissions of two deep pit free range layer poultry houses were estimated by high time-resolution measurements of NH3 concentrations and meteorological variables downwind of layer poultry houses and the application of an inverse Gaussian plume model. Atmospheric NH3 concentrations and deposition fluxes across the study landscape were studied at a resolution of 25 m x 25 m. The approach combined a detailed landscape inventory of all farm activities providing high resolution NH3 emission estimates for atmospheric dispersion modelling and an intensive measurement programme of spatial NH3 concentrations for verifying modelled NH3 concentrations. The spatially diverse emission pattern resulted in a high spatial variability of modelled mean annual NH3 concentrations (0.3 to 77.9 μg NH3 m-3) and dry deposition fluxes (0.1 to >100 kg NH3-N ha-1 yr-1) within the landscape. Annual downstream fluxes and variation in spatial concentration of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (NH4 + and NO3 -) and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) were studied in the two main catchments within the study landscape (agricultural grassland vs. semi-natural moorland catchment). The grassland catchment was associated with an annual downstream total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) flux of 14.4 kg N ha-1 yr-1, which was 66% higher than the flux of 8.7 kg ha-1 yr-1 from the moorland catchment. This difference was largely due to the NO3 - flux being one order of magnitude higher in the grassland catchment. The contribution of DON to the TDN flux varied between the catchments with 49% in the grassland and 81% in the moorland catchment. Fluvial and atmospheric N fluxes were combined to derive N budgets of the two catchments. Agricultural activities accounted for the majority of N input to the catchments, with atmospheric deposition also playing a significant role, especially in the moorland catchment. Both catchments showed large stream export fluxes compared to their net import which suggests that their capacity of N storage is limited. This thesis quantifies major N fluxes in a study landscape and shows their large spatial variability. Agricultural activities dominate landscape N dynamics. The work demonstrates the importance of considering landscape N variability when attempting to reduce the environmental impact of agricultural activities.