Functional Multi-Scale Integration of Agricultural Nitrogen-Budgets Into Catchment Water Quality Modeling

Xiaoqiang Yang*, Michael Rode, Seifeddine Jomaa, Ines Merbach, Doerthe Tetzlaff, Chris Soulsby, Dietrich Borchardt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diffuse Nitrogen pollution from agriculture maintains high pressures on groundwater and aquatic ecosystems. Further mitigation requires targeted measures that reconcile agricultural interests in environmental protection. However, the agriculture-related processes of catchment N modeling remain poorly defined due to discipline-specific data and knowledge gaps. Using field-experimental data, crop N uptake responses to fertilizer management were parsimoniously conceptualized and integrated into a catchment diffuse-N model. The improved catchment modeling further facilitated integration with agricultural budget-based assessments. The integrated analysis in a mesoscale catchment disentangled contrasting agri-environment functional mechanisms in typically flashy chemodynamic and transport-limited chemostatic export regimes. Moreover, the former was actively responsive to interannual climatic variability and agricultural practices; the latter exhibited drought-induced enhancement of N enrichment, which could likely be mitigated through reduced fertilization. This interdisciplinary integration of data and methods provided an insightful evidence base for multi-sector targeted measures, especially under cumulative impacts of changing climate and fertilizer-use intensities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021GL096833
Number of pages11
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number4
Early online date23 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2022


  • climatic variability
  • crop N uptake conceptualization
  • fertilization experimental data
  • fully distributed catchment modeling
  • integrated agri-environment functioning
  • targeted mitigation measures


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