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Influence of legacy phosphorus, land use, and climate change on anthropogenic phosphorus inputs and riverine export dynamics


A quantitative understanding of riverine phosphorus (P) export in response to changes in anthropogenic P inputs (NAPI), land use and climate is critical for developing effective watershed P control measures. This study indicated that annual riverine TP export for the six catchments of the Yongan River watershed in eastern China increased 4.1–30.3-fold over the 1980–2010 period. Increased riverine TP export resulted from a 61–85 % increase in NAPI and a 2.6–14.6-fold increase in riverine export fraction of NAPI due to 36–43, 30–125, and 65–76 % increases in developed land area (D%), drained agricultural land area (DA%), and storm events, respectively. For the 31-year cumulative record, 1.6–14 % of NAPI was exported by rivers, 40–64 % was stored in the upper 20 cm of agricultural soils, and 30–55 % was retained in other landscape positions. An empirical model that incorporates annual NAPI, precipitation, D%, and DA% accounted for 94 % of the variation in annual riverine TP fluxes across the six catchments and 31 years. The model estimated that NAPI and legacy P contributed 42–92 % and 8–58 % of annual riverine TP flux, respectively. The model forecasts an 8–18 % increase in riverine TP flux by 2030 due to a 4 % increase in precipitation with no changes in NAPI and land use compared to the 2000–2010 baseline condition. Enhanced export of NAPI and legacy P by changes in land use and climate will delay the decrease in riverine P flux in response to NAPI reductions and should be considered in developing and assessing watershed P management strategies.

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