Major agricultural changes required to mitigate phosphorus losses under climate change

Ockenden Mary, M J Holloway, Keith Beven, Adrian Collins, R Evans, P D Falloon, K J Forber, Kevin Hiscock, R Kahana, C J A Macleod, W Tych, M L Villamizar, C Wearing, P J Withers, J G Zhou, P A Barker, S Burke, Jim Freer, Penny Johnes, M SnellBen Surridge, Phil Haygarth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

39 Citations (Scopus)
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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).
Original languageEnglish
Article number161
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Early online date31 Jul 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Jul 2017


  • Climate - change adaptation
  • Element cycles
  • Environmental Health
  • Hydrology

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