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Major agricultural changes required to mitigate phosphorus losses under climate change

Ockenden, MC and Hollaway, MJ and Beven, KJ and Collins, AL and Evans, R and Falloon, PD and Forber, KJ and Hiscock, KM and Kahana, R and MacLeod, CJA and Tych, W and Villamizar, ML and Wearing, C and Withers, PJA and Zhou, JG and Barker, PA and Burke, S and Freer, JE and Johnes, PJ and Snell, MA and Surridge, BWJ and Haygarth, PM (2017) Major agricultural changes required to mitigate phosphorus losses under climate change. Nature Communications, 8. ISSN 2041-1723

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Abstract

© 2017 The Author(s). 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).

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