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Science of The Total Environment
Vol. 529, 20
15, Pages: 168–181

Effects of climate change and agricultural adaptation on nutrient loading from Finnish catchments to the Baltic Sea

Inese Huttunen, Heikki Lehtonen, Markus Huttunen, Vanamo Piirainen, Marie Korppoo, Noora Veijalainen, Markku Viitasalo, Bertel Vehvilšinen

Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, P.O. Box 140, FIN-00251 Helsinki, Finland.


Climate change is expected to increase annual and especially winter runoff, shorten the snow cover period and therefore increase both nutrient leaching from agricultural areas and natural background leaching in the Baltic Sea catchment. We estimated the effects of climate change and possible future scenarios of agricultural changes on the phosphorus and nitrogen loading to the Baltic Sea from Finnish catchments. In the agricultural scenarios we assumed that the prices of agricultural products are among the primary drivers in the adaptation to climate change, as they affect the level of fertilization and the production intensity and volume and, hence, the modeled changes in gross nutrient loading from agricultural land. Optimal adaptation may increase production while supporting appropriate use of fertilization, resulting in low nutrient balance in the fields. However, a less optimal adaptation may result in higher nutrient balance and increased leaching. The changes in nutrient loading to the Baltic Sea were predicted by taking into account the agricultural scenarios in a nutrient loading model for Finnish catchments (VEMALA), which simulates runoff, nutrient processes, leaching and transport on land, in rivers and in lakes. We thus integrated the effects of climate change in the agricultural sector, nutrient loading in fields, natural background loading, hydrology and nutrient transport and retention processes.

Keywords: Climate change; Nutrient loading; Baltic Sea; Agricultural scenarios; Water quality modeling; VEMALA.

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