Wednesday, 30 August 2017

An uncertain future? Major agricultural changes required to mitigate phosphorus losses under climate change

We have just published in Nature Communications a sobering reminder about the prospects of phosphorus transfer from land to water in the future under climate change.  Mary Ockenden, my Post Doctoral research fellow, skillfully led the paper and the abstract of the paper follows, with a link to the open access version of the paper here and a PDF here.

Phosphorus losses from land to water will be impacted by climate change and land management for food production, with detrimental impacts on aquatic ecosystems. Here we use a unique combination of methods to evaluate the impact of projected climate change on future phosphorus transfers, and to assess what scale of agricultural change would be needed to mitigate these transfers. We combine novel high-frequency phosphorus flux data from three representative catchments across the UK, a new high-spatial resolution climate model, uncertainty estimates from an ensemble of future climate simulations, two phosphorus transfer models of contrasting complexity and a simplified representation of the potential intensification of agriculture based on expert elicitation from land managers. We show that the effect of climate change on average winter phosphorus loads (predicted increase up to 30% by 2050s) will be limited only by large-scale agricultural changes (e.g., 20–80% reduction in phosphorus inputs).

Our press team did a good job in promoting the story with this simple short video and we achieved National BBC Radio 4 attention on Farming Today as well as other channels.  

This work reflects the importance of the long term data from the National Defra Demonstration Test Catchments and the NERC NUTCAT projects, all coming together. The more you think about thsi work and its implications, the more serious are the implications.  This is just the beginning...... 


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