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The leaching of nitrate from agricultural areas and the effect of additional nutrients on both freshwater and marine ecosystems have become crucial for environmental problems in large parts of Europe. Along with increasing concern of nitrate pollution the need for predictive tools, such as simulation models, has become increasingly important. Modelling of nitrogen leaching from agricultural soils has a long tradition for north and central Europe, whereas analyses from the Mediterranean are fewer.

This study presents a methodology and a case study for the large-scale simulation of nitrogen leaching. A modelling system consisting of the distributed hydrological model MIKESHE and the one-dimensional nitrogen model DAISY was applied to a coastal agricultural catchment, draining into an eutrophic area of the Adriatic Sea. The investigated catchment was situated in the Po delta in Northern Italy. The hydrological model MIKESHE was calibrated and validated at the catchment scale using time series of groundwater table and channel discharges. A nested modelling approach was adopted for the DAISY model. First, the model capabilities of describing the root zone processes were carefully evaluated through a field scale calibration/ validation using soil water content, mineral nitrogen concentration, dry matter yield and crop nitrogen uptake. Afterwards the impact of various catchment characteristics on nitrogen leaching was carefully evaluated, providing the necessary basic for the subsequent model application at the catchment scale.

Additional information

Authors: KJAER J, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra (IT)
Bibliographic Reference: EUR 21071 EN (2004), various paging. Free of charge
Availability: Available from European Commission, JRC Knowledge Management Unit, Ispra (IT) Tel: +39 033278 9893 Fax: +39 033278 5409 E-mail: or Bruxelles (BE) Tel: +32 2 295 76 24 Fax: +32 2 299 63 22
ISBN: ISBN: 92-894-5431-8
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