Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 114, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as

Reduction of stream nitrate concentrations by land management in contrasted landscapes

  • Laurène CasalEmail author
  • Patrick Durand
  • Nouraya Akkal-Corfini
  • Cyril Benhamou
  • François Laurent
  • Jordy Salmon-Monviola
  • Sylvain Ferrant
  • Anne Probst
  • Jean-Luc Probst
  • Françoise Vertès
Original Article


Optimizing management practices at the plot scale is sometimes not sufficient to reach water framework directive objectives for nitrate pollution. Land management measures involving targeted setting aside of croplands is a promising solution, but its efficiency depends on the local context. We used a distributed agro-hydrological model to compare management interventions intended to decrease vertical and lateral nitrate leaching from soil to groundwater and stream water in two contrasted agricultural catchments. The simulated scenarios combined two strategies: optimization of agricultural practices and land-use conversion from agricultural to natural land at different locations within the catchments. Long-term climate, discharge, and nitrate concentrations have been monitored for the two catchments and agricultural practices are well known over the 13-year simulation period (2002–2015). The Kervidy-Naizin site (KN) is subject to intense livestock pressure with mean nitrogen inputs of 257 kg ha−1 year−1, while the Auradé site (AU) is primarily cereal cultivation with nitrogen inputs of 109 kg ha−1 year−1. The results highlight a large nitrogen legacy in KN, resulting in a progressive and long lived (> 10 years) response to changes in management, while in AU, this response is perceptible after only 5–7 years. For both catchments, the most effective scenario involves wide riparian buffer strips in interception position covering about 15% of the catchment area. In KN, this land conversion scenario, simulated with the agro-hydrological model TNT2, created a decrease of nitrate concentration in stream water by 25% versus 15% in AU. Contrastingly, the implementation of best management practices decreased stream nitrate concentration only by 9% for KN and 4% for AU.


Distributed model Nitrogen cycling Mitigation scenario Catchment Best management practice Riparian zone 



This work was funded by the French National Research Agency (ESCAPADE project in AGROBIOSPHERE program, ANR-12-AGRO-0003) and by Agence de l’Eau Adour Garonne (BAG’AGES project). For Kervidy-Naizin, the farm surveys were performed within the MOSAIC project of the AGROBIOSPHERE program, ANR-12-AGRO-0005. The grant of the first author was co-funded by Arvalis. The authors are very grateful to all the staff of the Agrhys Observatory, especially to S. Busnot, Y. Hamon, M. Faucheux and N. Gillet (field work), G. Le Henaff (databases) and P. Pichelin (GIS). For Auradé, the authors would like to thank the ‘Groupement des Agriculteurs de la Gascogne Toulousaine’ (GAGT for farm surveys data), E. Guigues and V. Payre (farmers agricultural practices database), V. Ponnou-Delaffon (for contribution in hydrochemical database compilation), S. Sauvage and J.M. Sanchez-Pérez. The two experimental catchments, Kervidy-Naizin and Auradé, belong to the French Research Infrastructure OZCAR (Observatory of the Critical Zone:

Supplementary material

10705_2019_9985_MOESM1_ESM.docx (295 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 295 kb)
10705_2019_9985_MOESM2_ESM.docx (296 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 296 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurène Casal
    • 1
    Email author
  • Patrick Durand
    • 1
  • Nouraya Akkal-Corfini
    • 1
  • Cyril Benhamou
    • 2
  • François Laurent
    • 3
  • Jordy Salmon-Monviola
    • 1
  • Sylvain Ferrant
    • 4
  • Anne Probst
    • 5
  • Jean-Luc Probst
    • 5
  • Françoise Vertès
    • 1
  2. 2.ECOSYS, INRAAgroParisTechThiverval-GrignonFrance
  3. 3.Arvalis institut du végétalBoignevilleFrance
  4. 4.CESBIOUniversité de Toulouse, IRD, CNRS, CNES, UPS, INRAToulouseFrance
  5. 5.EcoLab, CNRSUniversité de ToulouseToulouseFrance

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