Landscape, regional and global estimates of nitrogen flux from land to sea: errors and uncertainties

Penny J. Johnes, D. Butterfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Regional to global scale modelling of N flux from land to ocean has progressed to date through the development of simple empirical models representing bulk N flux rates from large watersheds, regions, or continents on the basis of a limited selection of model parameters. Watershed scale N flux modelling has developed a range of physically-based approaches ranging from models where N flux rates are predicted through a physical representation of the processes involved, through to catchment scale models which provide a simplified representation of true systems behaviour. Generally, these watershed scale models describe within their structure the dominant process controls on N flux at the catchment or watershed scale, and take into account variations in the extent to which these processes control N flux rates as a function of landscape sensitivity to N cycling and export. This paper addresses the nature of the errors and uncertainties inherent in existing regional to global scale models, and the nature of error propagation associated with upscaling from small catchment to regional scale through a suite of spatial aggregation and conceptual lumping experiments conducted on a validated watershed scale model, the export coefficient model. Results from the analysis support the findings of other researchers developing macroscale models in allied research fields. Conclusions from the study confirm that reliable and accurate regional scale N flux modelling needs to take account of the heterogeneity of landscapes and the impact that this has on N cycling processes within homogenous landscape units.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)429-476
Number of pages48
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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