Project: Legacies of Agricultural Pollutants (LEAP): Integrated Assessment of Biophysical and Socioeconomic Controls on Water Quality in Agroecosystems

Acronym LEAP (Reference Number: WaterJPI-JC-2016_13)
Duration 01/04/2017 - 31/03/2019
Project Topic Intensive agricultural practices in Europe and Canada have led to high levels of non-point source nutrient pollution, threatening drinking water quality and contributing to the destruction of aquatic ecosystems. Despite widespread implementation of a range of conservation measures to mitigate the impacts of fertilizer-intensive agriculture, nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) concentrations of inland waters are in many cases remaining steady or continuing to increase. This lack of response to conservation measures is increasingly attributed to the presence of legacy nutrient stores, which cause the long-term release of N and P, hence delaying the expected water quality benefits in receiving water bodies. However, our current knowledge regarding the magnitudes and spatial distributions of legacy nutrients across the landscape, as well as the time scales over which these legacies may contribute to elevated nutrient concentrations in surface and groundwater, remains woefully inadequate. The proposed LEAP project will move beyond a simple focus on nutrient concentrations and fluxes, and instead work towards the explicit quantification of the spatio-temporal dynamics of non-point source nutrient legacies within watersheds and the ongoing and future impacts on water quality. The quantitative understanding of nutrient legacies and the associated legacy-related time lags to achieving improvements in water quality at the project's study sites will allow us to develop an integrated analysis framework and innovative modelling tools to predict agricultural N and P loadings. Due to the strong impacts of nutrient legacies on the time scales for recovery in at-risk landscapes, integration of legacy dynamics into a hydro-economic modelling framework will enable a more accurate assessment of the outcomes of alternative management approaches in terms of both short- and long-term costs and benefits, and the evaluation of temporal uncertainties associated with different intervention strategies. In addition, our mapping of legacy nutrient stores and attention to spatial variations in legacy accumulation will inform the development of targeted, and thus more cost-effective, nutrient mitigation strategies. At a larger scale, our analysis of similarities and differences in agricultural trajectories, and thus differences in legacy nutrient dynamics, across Europe and North America will facilitate the exchange of ideas and perspectives and create new synergies with ongoing EU and Canadian water research and policy development.
Network WaterWorks2015
Call 2016 JOINT CALL: Sustainable management of water resources in agriculture, forestry and freshwater aquaculture sectors

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 University of Waterloo Coordinator Canada
2 University of Copenhagen Partner Denmark
3 University of Coimbra Partner Portugal
4 Stockholm University Partner Sweden