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Modelling the N cascade in regional watersheds: the case study of the Seine, Somme and Scheldt rivers
Billen, G.; Thieu, V.; Garnier, J.; Silvestre, M. (2009). Modelling the N cascade in regional watersheds: the case study of the Seine, Somme and Scheldt rivers. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 133(3-4): 234-246.
In: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. Elsevier Science: Amsterdam. ISSN 0167-8809; e-ISSN 1873-2305, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Marine/Coastal; Brackish water; Fresh water
Author keywords
    Nitrogen cascade; Nitrogen retention; Autotrophy; Heterotrophy; Seine river; Somme river; Scheldt river

Authors  Top 
  • Billen, G., more
  • Thieu, V., more
  • Garnier, J., more
  • Silvestre, M.

    The watersheds of the Seine, Somme and Scheldt rivers (France, Belgium, the Netherlands), flowing into the continental coastal zone of the English Channel and Southern North Sea, are among the regions of the world with the highest anthropogenic inputs of reactive nitrogen through fertilizer use, legume fixation and deposition of atmospheric nitrogen. They also represent examples of widely open systems, either exporting a large fraction of their N inputs under the form of agricultural products (case of the Seine basin) or importing high amounts of nitrogen as feed for livestock nutrition (case of the Scheldt basin), and delivering up to 2000 kg N km-2 yr-1 at river outlet into the sea. Taking these three watersheds as a case study, we review the different approaches developed so far for describing and predicting the fate of reactive nitrogen inputs to regional systems and its cascade from soils to sea. These approaches range from simple lumped input–output budget, to detailed process-based, spatially distributed models of nutrient transfers. The merits and the limits of these approaches are discussed. Their combination allows to establish a reasonably consistent budget for the three basins, emphasizing the various ‘retention’ terms linked to both landscape and in-stream processes, including storage in long residence time compartments (soil organic matter, vadose zone, aquifers, etc.), denitrification (in soil, riparian zones or river benthos) or sediment burial. Root-zone and riparian denitrification processes appear as major terms of landscape retention in all three investigated watersheds. Retention of nitrogen associated with collection and treatment of urban wastewater is also a major term in the two most populated watersheds.

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